Migrant Workers in Qatar When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Qatar Airways
On June 4, 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with its Gulf neighbor, Qatar, over the latter’s supposed support for terrorism abroad, as well as its close relationship with the Shi’a power of Iran.

BBC reported that the diplomatic crisis not only rocked Qatar’s stock market that lost about 10 percent of its market value in the first four weeks but also stunted the expansion of specific airline company- Qatar Airways. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath, Qatar Airways canceled flights to 18 regional cities and changed flight paths to other destinations due to airspace limitations.

The Impact of Qatar Airways on the Country

The crisis showed the importance of Qatar Airways as both an economic engine of its home country and a transporter of food and other vital resources. Since its founding in 1994, Qatar Airways has spurred its country’s economy, both directly and indirectly, in the following three ways described in detail below.

Economic Engine

Doha’s Hamad International Airport connects Qatar with 150 destinations. To power its massive global operation, Qatar employs 40,000 professionals and as of 2016, it was the fastest growing airline in the world.

As Qatar’s only national airline, Qatar Airways also handles shipments of goods. The diplomatic crisis of 2017, for example, increased prices of elementary goods because Qatar Air Cargo had to take longer routes around restricted airspace.

Trade and Tourism

By branding itself as a world-famous stopover destination, Qatar Airways has influenced Doha’s and country’s tourism increase, spurring economic growth in the process. Ever since 2015, passengers transiting through Doha can participate in the airline’s Discover Qatar, which allows passengers to visit landmarks, including museums, beaches and shopping malls, in Qatar.

These excursions do not only promote Doha’s visibility on the world stage, but also bring foreign money to Qatar’s businesses. Discover Qatar has numbers to back its success. In November 2017, the program hosted 80 leading trade partners. According to Gulf Times, the delegation of trade partners visited the Katara Cultural Village, the Museum of Islamic Art and the stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s emergence as a trade center has prompted its national airline to ease visa restrictions. In Sept. 2016, Qatar Airways worked with the Ministry of Interior to expedite the process for receiving visas, creating an online platform for issuing e-visas. Later in 2017, Qatar launched a free, 96-hour transit visa and extended a visa waiver policy to more than 80 countries. These visa initiatives resulted in an increase of 40,000 visitors in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Charity

The airline has funneled its profits to charitable purposes, both inside Qatar and globally. In 2013, Qatar Airways partnered with Educate a Child, a program that provides primary education to out-of-school children. During the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Qatar Airways partnered with Qatar Charity to deliver toys for 800 orphans in the Children’s Living Center in the Reyhanli province of Hatay, Turkey.

While booking their itineraries on Qatar Airways’ website, travelers have the option of making donations to educational organizations, with donation sizes ranging from $1 to $50. In November 2014, Qatar Airways raised approximately $700,000 to Educate a Child.

Nevertheless, critics worry that Qatar’s subsidization of its national carrier stifles competition. In the decade preceding January 2015, CNBC estimated that the three Middle Eastern carriers: Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines and Etihad received more than $40 billion in subsidies from their state governments.

The nagging question is whether these subsidies are sustainable in the long run and if the Qatari government will always have money to invest in its airline’s success.

The status quo gives a reason for optimism, with the 2022 Qatar World Cup and Qatar Airways’ aggressive expansion into new markets showing the Gulf state’s promise for the future.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Hunger in Qatar Through Food Security ProgramsIn June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and initiated an economic embargo of Qatar. This was due to reported Qatari state sponsorship of terrorism and of strengthening diplomatic ties between Qatar and Iran. As a part of the economic embargo, the four nations ceased food exports to Qatar, leading to raised concerns about food shortages and hunger in Qatar.

As a desert nation, Qatar relies heavily on food imports, with 80 to 90 percent of food supplies being imported. These imports were greatly affected by the embargo. Despite a rise in food aid from Turkey and Iran, Qatar saw a 40 percent hit to food imports by the end of June. Many people living in Qatar began to stockpile food as food shortages began and food prices rose. While there have been attempts to mediate the situation, the embargo was still ongoing at the end of September 2017 and is expected to continue into 2018.

While the rise in food prices has slowed and food imports have been coming in from different parts of the world, sustainability is still an issue. Qatar has been attempting to develop sustainable ways of providing its own food since before the embargo. In 2008, Qatar established the National Food Security Program (QNFSP) with the goal of increasing domestic food production. This would reduce the amount of food being imported and increase food security, the ability for all people to have economic and physical access to food, ultimately reducing hunger in Qatar.

The QNFSP has sought technological advances in crop production technologies and irrigation systems. One way this is being done is through the Sahara Forest Project, a pilot program using greenhouses on a one-hectare parcel of land outside Doha to grow crops and make freshwater from seawater. The Qatar Islamic Bank also announced in August that it would fund a 530,000 square meter food security facility to manufacture and store rice, raw sugar and edible oils. In addition, several companies are expanding livestock numbers, with one company seeking to add 25,000 cows in order to meet Qatar’s dairy demand by April 2018.

Another attempt to increase food security is being done through food processing. Food processing allows for longer shelf life and less waste. QNFSP is still working to expand this industry.

Finding ways to increase productivity in agriculture is extremely necessary for Qatar, where only 1 percent of the land is arable. In addition to investing in technology, private enterprises and the Qatar Development Bank will be investing to financially support unproductive farms, which currently make up 80 percent of registered farmland in Qatar. With the goal of providing 60 percent of its food through domestic agriculture by 2024, major steps are being taken to increase food security and decrease hunger in Qatar.

– Erik Beck

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in QatarQatar is a nation of extreme economic stratification between rich and poor. An oil rich gulf state, Qatar’s economy is booming, with its GDP reaching a soaring $329.2 billion in 2016 – making Qatar the wealthiest Arab state. Despite this title, there are still unfortunately a large number of people living in poverty here. In this climate of extreme inequality, the question of how to help people in Qatar remains of vital importance.

This economic growth is coupled with a massive population spike, due to the influx of migrant workers needed to sustain the economic growth of the country. Migrant workers are estimated to comprise about 90 percent of the Qatari population, with nearly 60 percent living in what the Qatari monarchy officially calls “labour camps.”

This influx of migrant workers has been further exacerbated by the construction for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have long condemned the working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Under the kafala labor sponsorship system, workers are dependent on their employers for their visas, living accommodation and even permission to enter or exit the country. Amnesty International has deemed labor conditions as “squalid and cramped,” while the International Labor Organization is launching investigations into the labor camps and systems surrounding the construction of World Cup infrastructure.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. As an official ally of the U.S., diplomats from the U.S. have unique access to the small faction of the Qatari population that maintains control over the political and economic realities that the poor face. It is crucial that the U.S. uses its influence to advocate for the outrageous treatment of migrant workers, on whose backs the immense wealth and economic growth of Qatar is built.

USAID has already begun to answer the question of how to help people in Qatar, and are still working to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Cooperation to Enhance Global Food Security, signed in 2011. Dr. Rajiv Shah, then the administrator of USAID, signed the MOU, saying, “Both the United States and Qatar see food security as a development issue that must be addressed comprehensively and creatively.”

It is critical to the health and well-being of the impoverished Qatari workers that these goals be pursued. Moreover, resources must continue to flow to organizations such as USAID, which work to pressure the Qatari monarchy to provide a social safety net and adequate human rights for its subjects.

Jeffery Harrell
Photo: Flickr

Most Common Diseases in QatarEven the richest country in the world has diseases that do not seem to be going away. Qatar a Middle Eastern nation that borders Saudi Arabia. This prosperous country had a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $66,415.30 in 2016. For comparison, the United States had a GDP per capita of $52,194.90. Even so, there are still health concerns that are not diminishing. Here are five of the most common diseases in Qatar.

Diabetes

In 2013, the Action on Diabetes (AOD) initiative provided people in Qatar with a free diabetes test. There was a concern about high blood sugar in the adult population, and the speculations were justified. The tests found that about 16 percent of the adult population has diabetes. This common disease is an issue that demands action. In the AOD test, 86 percent of the people who discovered they had diabetes were unaware of their blood-sugar problem, according to the Gulf Times.

Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease was the number one killer of people in 2005, but it has since moved to the number two spot. Science Daily explains that “ischaemia means a ‘reduced blood supply,’” so this heart disease occurs when the blood supply to the heart is low. This common disease in Qatar can be prevented by regular exercise, a healthy diet and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure.

Diarrhea

Although diarrheal diseases have been decreasing since 1990, cases still occur and cause other issues, sometimes resulting in death. Intestinal issues can be caused by diarrhea, killing 1.4 out of 100,000 people annually. With the help of advanced medicine, awareness of eating healthy and improved water quality, the incidence of diarrhea will continue to drop.

Respiratory Problems

In Doha, the capital of Qatar, there is very poor air quality, which is causing respiratory issues. Difficulty breathing and coughing, lung infection and other respiratory diseases are prominent in the city. Although not many people have been fatally affected by the air pollution thus far, Doha News estimates that more people will contract diseases and die,if the air quality is not addressed. Even natives are “unclear [as to] why Qatar’s high pollution levels don’t correlate to high levels of early death and/or disease.”

Cancer

Similar to the United States, cancer is a big threat to residents. The three most common types of cancer are cancer of the respiratory system, breast cancer and liver cancer. These three diseases “[make] up 36.4% of all deaths from cancer in Qatar.” Researchers and organizations in Qatar are working hard to promote cancer awareness and prevention for the future. The National Cancer Strategy has laid out a plan for awareness and hopefully advances in medicine so less patients have to travel abroad for treatment. Many people are working to eliminate cancer from among the most common diseases in Qatar.

A wealthy nation is not a perfect one, and Qatar is an example of a developed nation with its own struggles. However, with enough medical research, health education and environmental consciousness, these diseases in Qatar will continue to become less common.

Sydney Missigman

World's Richest Country

There are many different ways to measure the wealth of a nation, and depending on methodology, answers may vary as to what is the world’s richest country. Since the U.S. has the highest GDP of all nations, at a considerable $18.56 trillion, it is a strong contender, along with China.

However, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank, in 2016, the world’s richest country also happens to be one of the smallest: Qatar, which is located on the northeastern side of the Arabian peninsula. Qatar has the highest gross domestic product at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita, meaning the nation’s GDP is the largest relative to population and the strength of the currency. Under this measurement, the U.S. lags between ninth and thirteenth place.

With a land mass of less than 12,000 square kilometers and a population of 2.7 million people, Qatar boasts an average income of $129,000. Qatar’s success stems from gas and oil reserves, as is the case with other wealthy nations such as Norway. Qatar’s natural gas reserves are third largest in the world, trumped only by Russia and Iran. For this reason, 91 percent of the nation’s GDP stems from trade, primarily involving oil, and more than 50 percent of the government’s revenue can be attributed to the fuel sector. In 2016, Qatar sold $9 billion in bonds, the largest Middle East bond issue in history.

With no income tax, Qatar lures wealthy immigrants and expats and continues to grow in both population and wealth. The nation’s success has gained global attention; Qatar was selected to host the soccer world cup in 2022. In response, the government has recently initiated many large infrastructure projects, including sports stadiums and an upgraded light-rail transportation system.

Despite owning such vast wealth, Qatar is often criticized for being behind on education, refusing to acknowledge women’s rights and having affiliations with radical Islam. There exists a significant disparity in the quality of life between the rich and the poor classes, and infrastructure is limited in poorer regions. Ironically, even the world’s richest country must continue to focus on developing and improving the overall quality of life for citizens.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr


The water quality in Qatar is improving, and experts say that both the tap and bottled water is usually safe to drink. However, those who live in the country should be cautious with imported water.

According to the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, or QEERI, tap and bottled water in Qatar is “very safe to drink.” The organization conducted a study looking at 113 samples of tap water and 62 samples of bottled water with favorable.

Based on QEERI’s findings, the water quality in Qatar complies with guidelines set by both the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

QEERI confirmed that the water did not contain dangerous levels of contaminants, such as lead and arsenic, which can affect the taste and smell of the water in addition to causing health problems.

Nora Kuiper, a leading researcher for the project, said that the quality of water in Qatar is superior, contrary to any preconceived notions that residents might have.

“The quality of Qatar’s drinking water is very high, higher than many local consumers think,” Kuiper said.

Candace Rowell, another researcher for this project, said that the most important outcome of the study was finding that tap and bottled water are comparably safe.

“The real takeaway message is that tap water in the country is just as safe as bottled water, either locally produced or imported brands,” Rowell said.

The main concern that the study addressed was that imported water was not always up to standards. According to QEERI, some samples of imported water showed higher concentrations of contaminants, such as arsenic.

According to Doha News, researchers have expressed concerns regarding the mineral content and how this affects the water quality in Qatar. The study found that while water is typically free from harmful chemicals and bacteria, it can lack vital minerals. According to this article, at least 50 percent of Qatar’s water supply requires extensive salt removal due to the country’s limited access to fresh water.

Jerome Nriagu, a professor emeritus at the School of Public Health and Research and the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan said that this “synthetic” water lacks essential minerals.

“By constantly drinking water with low potassium and magnesium, you increase the risk of getting obesity and hypertension, and [certain] metabolic disorders,” Nriagu said.

Nriagu said that it would be beneficial for officials to add essential minerals to better the water quality in Qatar.

“We’re not getting enough from our foods to start with, and now drinking [this type of] water compounds the problem,” Nriagu said.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr


As the war in the Middle East rages on, many people are forced to leave their homes due to violence and intolerance. As a result, millions of people from the Middle East are seeking refuge. Qatar, home to 2.7 million people, is a peninsular Arab country located on the Persian Gulf. Many Syrian refugees have tried to flee to Qatar but are unable to do so. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Qatar:

  1. A refugee is someone forced to leave their country to escape a disaster.
  2. Despite being an extraordinarily wealthy country, Qatar has resettled no refugees.
  3. Many Gulf countries, including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have also turned down Syrian refugees.
  4. There are more than 13.5 million people in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Five million Syrian refugees currently live inTurkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
  5. Qatar has earned vocal criticism for its refusal to accept refugees.
  6. Why are there no refugees in Qatar? Many experts blame visa restrictions, which make it difficult for Syrians to enter countries along the Gulf.
  7. Officials from Qatar defend the country by pointing out that their country donates millions of dollars to the United Nations to help refugees.
  8. In an exclusive interview, Qatari Foreign Minister Dr. Khalid Al-Attiyah further defended Qatar. He stated, “The state of Qatar is in no way falling short in its responsibilities when it comes to the Syrian crisis.” He reminded people that Qatar has launched many programs to help Syrian refugees, including humanitarian, economic and diplomatic initiatives.
  9. This is true, as seen in an initiative by Qatar back in 2012. In partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,  Sheikha Moza, a member of Qatar’s royal family, launched a $12 million education program that will help dozens of countries fund schooling for 172,000 refugee children.
  10. Despite Qatar’s financial aid, many experts believe Qatar must do more. The U.N. has requested that all developed nations open their borders to refugees, including Qatar.

Overall, Qatar’s response to the refugee crisis is quite controversial. Qatar has donated millions of dollars to help refugees, but it has yet to accept any refugees into its own borders. The hope for the future is that there will be more opportunities for Syrian refugees in Qatar.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Education in QatarWhile Qatar’s location — Surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq — makes it a hot spot of human rights violations and war, education in the country is blossoming.

Public education in Qatar was first established in 1952. Since then, the Muslim nation has created entities to preserve the heritage and uphold the integrity of the nation.

One such body is the Supreme Education Council (SEC). Dedicated to creating, “Education for a New Era,” the SEC focuses on modernizing standards and making education highly accessible, regardless of economic status. The SEC also subsidizes independent schools, which cover elementary, intermediary, and secondary educational stages.

Within the public sector, there is a specialization of education exclusively for boys, which include a religious institute, a secondary school of commerce, and a secondary school of technology.

Additionally, the SEC created several institutes concentrating on special education. Originally separated by gender, the Al Amal School for Boys and Al Amal School for Girls now provide an education for both genders.

Qatar also offers many private and public universities, including Qatar University, Weill Cornell College of Medicine in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

In order to achieve Qatar’s 2030 national vision in human development, education in Qatar focuses on the exploration of information and communication technology, both in the learning and teaching processes.

To create this vision, Qatar has developed the Exploring ICT Education Conference. Now in its seventh year, the keynote speakers gave presentations addressing topics such as digital literacy, Lego EV3 robotics, and security awareness.

One of the most recent initiatives to increase education standards and development in Qatar is the leading nonprofit Qatar Foundation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programs in three essential areas: education, science and research, and community expansion.

The nonprofit organization is responsible for collaborations, such as seminars to promote intercultural communication at the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar University’s, which were held in July.

Education in Qatar is rapidly growing. With the aid and support of the government, the education sector demonstrates the potential to provide access to high-quality education for all, as well as the ability of traditions to be modernized, while maintaining their integrity.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in QatarThe Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics disclosed on June 6, 2016 that 1.4 million people, nearly 60 percent of Qatar’s population, live in what the Qatari government officially labels as “labor camps.”

Migrants from poorer countries have moved to Qatar in recent years to develop its infrastructure for tourism projects, including preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

However, migrant workers continue to live a life of poverty in Qatar, with many human rights groups like Amnesty International condemning Qatar for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its very large migrant workforce.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers are also not paid for several months at a time, which puts significant emotional and financial pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts.

Recently, 13 people died in a fire that broke out in a labor camp for migrants working on a waterfront tourism project in southwest Qatar. The fire highlights how Qatar has treated migrant workers by providing poor living conditions for them.

The government responded to criticism by building new housing complexes for workers, including a city south of Doha. This new city, known as “Labour City,” will include cinemas, shops and a cricket stadium for migrant workers.

Outside of the government, various organizations have also assisted migrant workers to overcome their life of poverty in Qatar. One such organization is Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

On June 8, ROTA launched its Ramadan Project 2016, bringing together over 100 local volunteers to pack and distribute bulk groceries to more than 200 families in need across Qatar.

ROTA volunteers packaged food parcels containing items such as flour, cooking oil, milk powder and lentils that were later distributed before the start of Ramadan. The program also provided beneficiary families with shopping vouchers to purchase other products.

ROTA volunteers, numbering 300, partook in several community service activities set to take place over the month, including the installation of computer labs for migrants working on construction projects.

Despite living a life of poverty in Qatar, migrant workers are slowly overcoming hardships through additional assistance by the government and various organizations.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Flickr