Qatar’s failure is due largely to its stubborn stand of not recognising migrant workers as critical players in national building, deserving of equal status. It is also in part due to weak implementation of existing regulations, and a stranglehold over any form of independent rights-based social work.
With growing criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, the country has worked harder to portray workers as the temporary other, with official communication referring to them as either ‘guest’ or ‘transient’ workers, thereby framing the problems they face as also temporary, rather than one endemic to its labor market structure.
If you are stranded – wages unpaid, passport confiscated, undocumented because the employer has not processed your work visa – the best case scenario would be your immediate repatriation, with only some of your wages paid.
Fortunately, most of you reading this, are not lower income migrant workers, scraping the bottom of the barrel of Qatar woeful migrant ‘policing’ policies. The Ministry of Interior both governs and polices migrants, while the onus of proving employer malpractice is on the worker himself. Until you offer this evidence, you will be held guilty of ‘absconding’ or ‘running away’ if you’ve left an abusive employment situation, or accused of attempting to unionise if you refuse to continue working (strike) without pay or better terms.
Once a worker has left the place of employment, the employer washes their hands off all commitment towards him/her.
It would be a very lucky worker indeed who manages to recover unpaid wages, receive end of service benefits, an air ticket and exit visa. Most will be clueless and run from pillar to post, trying to make sense of a system that often doesn’t make sense to its key stakeholders itself.
A stranded worker’s education is by his peers. A roommate’s friend who has had experience filing complaints, or a colleague whose brother had some success getting an exit permit. There is no other information available to them.