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Qatar deports workers who protested against unpaid salaries

A rights group says the workers had been deported after holding protests against the Bandary International Group
A general view shows Lusail Stadium, the 80,000-capacity venue which will host the Fifa World Cup final in December, on the outskirts of Qatar's capital Doha, on 11 August 2022 (AFP)

Qatar has deported dozens of workers who participated in a rare protest for unpaid and delayed wages owed to them by a company that Doha has awarded multi-million dollar contracts, a rights group and a government source said Tuesday.

A government source told MEE that some protesters were deported for breaching Qatar's public security laws, without specifying the number.

'The same system has not been quick enough to punish the companies who don't pay their workers'

- Mustafa Qadri, Equidem

Equidem, a London-based NGO focusing on labour rights, told Middle East Eye that at least 60 people detained by Qatar had been deported back to their country of origin.

Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem, questioned the effectiveness of Qatar's labour reforms and whether they will help workers facing hardship inside the Gulf kingdom. 

"This situation is shocking - not because the Qataris were so quick to deport these workers who had the guts to publicly voice their agitations of not being paid or that this company is a major conglomerate in Qatar - but that the same system has not been quick enough to punish the companies who don't pay their workers," Qadri told Middle East Eye. 

"We know that this is the second strike in twelve months by workers from the same company, and the only reason it has come to light and got the attention it deserves is that people have got on camera that workers are standing up for their rights."

Qadri added that his organisation is in contact with some of the deported workers who have said they had received some of their wages owed to them but are now left with the "immense financial impact of not being able to return to Qatar".  

Protests and strikes

The workers belonged to Al Bandary Engineering and Electrowatt company, both owned and operated under the umbrella of the Bandary International Group.

Many workers who participated in the protest outside Al Bandary International Group in Doha were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal and said they had not been paid for seven months worth of work. 

Workers and trade union representatives told Migrant Rights, a rights group focused on worker's rights in Gulf countries, that the company had promised to give them their salaries on 11 August. 

But when they were denied their wages and had the electricity cut from their company-owned accommodation, the workers went on strike. At least 200 workers took to the streets of Doha on 14 August to demand their unpaid wages.

Migrant Rights said Al Bandary Engineering and the Electrowatt Company had not paid its workers for the last six months. 

"All delayed salaries and benefits are being paid by the Ministry of Labour," a government official said.

"The company was already under investigation by the authorities for non-payment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed."

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The Bandary International Group's website says Qatar had awarded it some of the biggest projects worth millions of Qatari riyals.  

Detained workers told Migrant Rights that at least 25 to 30 people were being kept in one room. Some workers said Qatar had deported several workers already with only part of their pay settlement.

Since being awarded the World Cup tournament, Qatar has been under intense pressure to reform its labour rights and ban the exploitative kafala system. 

But despite making strides in labour reforms, migrant workers in Qatar are still banned from joining trade unions and participating in strikes. 

Last year, hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar went on strike to protest poor working conditions, unpaid and delayed wages, and threats of reduced wages. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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