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More than 100 migrant workers may be deported after Qatar strike

Workers complain of not being paid previously promised salaries
Nepalese migrant workers queue to receive official documents in order to leave Nepal (AFP)

More than a hundred migrant workers, striking over low pay in Qatar, are currently being detained and in the midst of being processed for deportation.

Doha News reported on Monday that the men, who primarily originate from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were arrested after striking for three days straight. According to their colleagues, the workers refused to return until pay and conditions were improved.

Police and other company workers, however, scuffled with the strikers with one camp boss allegedly hitting workers with a piece of plastic pipe. Hours later the 100-odd workers were arrested.

Around 800 people from two subcontractors, Qatar Freelance Trading & Contracting and Qatar Middle East Co., participated in the strike.

“I’m hard working, but the salary is not on time, the food is not good … and when people are sick, the company takes their pay,” one worker told Doha News.

A number of Nepali workers complained that they had been paid only QR600 ($165) as opposed to the minimum monthly salary of QR900 ($250) set by the Nepal government, with several saying they had signed contracts promising QR1,200 ($330).

But Hamid Nawaz, the general manager of Qatar Freelance Trading and Contracting, denied accusations that he had not paid workers their fair share and claimed they were striking simply because they “wanted more money.”

Nepali news website eKantipur quoted one migrant worker as saying he had worked at a monthly salary of QR600 for the past four years and that after all his expenses he could barely save money to send home, as migrant workers commonly do.

“We’d rather return home with all perks we are entitled to if our demand is not met,” he said.

The labour attaché at the Nepali embassy in Qatar told the news website that he had discussed the issue with the employer, who could not “increase salary of the workers at this time” but were “ready to repatriate them.”

The GCC countries, including Qatar, have promised a raft of reforms to help tackle issues concerning migrant and domestic workers, although change has been slow despite growing international pressure ahead of the FIFA football World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said in a statement that “Qatar’s brutal disregard for migrant workers is on display once again. The ‘labour reforms’ promised by the authorities add up to nothing, and FIFA, the athletics body IAAF, multinationals and others which are getting a free ride on the back of modern slavery in Qatar should be ashamed to be in league with a dictatorship like this.”

She slammed Qatar's restrictive labour laws, which the ITUC has previously ranked as among the worst in the world, on a par with those of a failed state.

“This is what life without the right to strike looks like,” said Burrow. “It is deeply troubling that employer groups are now trying to undermine that very right at the International Labour Organisation.”

“The world needs to uphold rights, and not put every worker at the mercy of their employer with no right to strike against exploitation and abuse, like in Qatar.”