Sponsorship: Positive response to Qatar’s NHRC ideas


Only a few items in the draft which the Committee wanted amended were ignored due to security or other pressing concerns, said the Chairman of the NHRC, Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah.

In a comprehensive interview with Al Sharq, Al Attiyah, however, did not elaborate on the recommendations. He said most of the questions NHRC representatives are asked when they are taking part in an international conference on human rights related to the sponsorship rules, exit permit and labour problems in Qatar.

Replying to a question about why the legislation regulating the entry and residence of foreign workers was delayed, Al Attiyah said it related to a sensitive issue and coordination between many government agencies was required to put together the law and enforce them.

There are no political prisoners in the country and no cases of alleged torture in the central jail or deportation centres have come to light. “We are saying this after making several visits to these places to check conditions there," said Al Attiyah.

He admitted that two cases of torture in police custody were reported to the Committee, which were referred to the Ministry of Interior and these were being investigated. "There has, though, been some misunderstanding as regards these incidents," he said.

NHRC officials also visit companies and labour camps following workers’ complaints regarding bad living conditions, underpayment, overwork or harassment. “We have been to several locations this year,” said Al Attiyah.

Responding to a question about human trafficking in the region and the stand of the US State Department on the issue, he said there was recently a meeting with an official from the State Department, Gayatri Patel, and she was briefed on the situation.

Al Attiyah said that human trafficking takes place outside Qatar but the victims land here to work. At least 22 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the NHRC this year and most of the victims have been paid compensation in their home countries.

Three housemaids approached the Committee with complaints about mistreatment and salary non-payment. After the Committee intervened, two were sent back home and one was given a sponsorship change.

Asked if the embassies of major manpower-exporting countries here were dictating terms to the NHRC, Al Attiyah said the question didn’t arise since the panel was an autonomous agency.

“On the contrary, we have active cooperation with these embassies," he said. There has been considerable improvement in the labour situation in the country over the past few years due to efficient redressal mechanisms available.

Al Attiyah cited one instance to point out that it was not always a sponsor who harassed a worker. He narrated a case where an Arab expatriate administrative officer in a company was harassing a colleague and when the latter lodged a complaint with the NHRC, its sponsor was contacted.

“He (the sponsor) was shocked to learn of the mistreatment and the fact that his own company had filed a court case against the worker without his knowledge. He withdrew the legislation and gave the worker a release," said Al Attiyah.


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