“Kafala amnesty” for injured workers in Qatar

Workers injured in a gas leak in the industrial area and a gas explosion at local restaurant should be given a ‘’kafala amnesty’’ and the choice to change employers or leave the country with their end of service benefits.

The International Trade Union Confederation has written to the Qatar Labour Minister today requesting the amnesty and the full support of the Qatar Government to support workers with any compensation claims through the courts.

Dozens of people were taken to hospital in Doha after a gas leak at a chemical plant in the Industrial area of Doha, home to thousands of migrant workers on Thursday. In a separate incident, eleven people were killed and thirty five wounded in a gas explosion at a city centre restaurant, according to local news sources. Workers from Nepal, India, the Philippines and South Asian countries are reported to have been injured in both incidents.

“Qatar has been rocked by two tragedies in one day. We are deeply saddened by the death of eleven people in the gas explosion at the restaurant and the scores of injuries. The response of the medical and emergency staff to the overwhelming needs of people has been incredible,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary ITUC.
The gas leak in the industrial area puts at risk thousands of workers who live in squalid labour camps across the 52 streets that make up precinct. 60 percent of people in the industrial area are Nepali workers, some of the lowest paid in Qatar.
“Migrant workers are trapped in Qatar under the strict kafala system. To be injured and trapped in Qatar is even worse.

“Injured workers face being stuck there without being able to work, without pay, in a country where your employer owns you, sharing a room with ten grown men recuperating from injuries.

“We are appealing to the Qatari Government to grant a kafala amnesty to injured workers giving them the choice to change employers, or to leave the country with their end of service benefit.

“Workers should be given the full support of the Government to pursue compensation claims through the courts for workplace accidents, with fees for translation and court processes waived,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC has asked the Qatar Government to ensure injured migrant workers:

- Are provided with medical care
- On release from hospital the employer provides transport to follow up appointments
- Salaries are continued to be paid for workers on sick leave
- Accommodation and food is provided for workers on sick leave
- Workers have the choice to find work with another employer or leave the country with end of service benefits
- Court fees are waived for compensation claims, and legal processes can continue if the worker wishes to leave the country while the case goes to court.

The restaurant explosion is the largest single tragedy in Qatar since the Villaggio Mall fire in 2012, which claimed 19 lives including 13 children.

Martin Weekes, the father of triplets who died in the Villaggio tragedy, said "We are heartbroken to learn of another tragedy in Qatar. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those who died in an apparent gas explosion.

Whatever the cause of the tragedy, we hope that the Qatari government will complete a full and transparent enquiry making the full findings available to the public. Unfortunately the families of the Villaggio disaster are still waiting for a full report despite assurances from the Qatar Government.

Hearing of the tragedy has brought some many awful memories of the day we lost our children. Our thoughts are entirely with the families and friends of the victims. We share your grief.”

The ITUC completed a four day mission to Qatar earlier this week and will be releasing a new report about working conditions in Qatar in March.

ENDS

Gemma.swart@ituc-csi.org

For interviews with Sharan Burrow, contact Gemma Swart +32 479 06 41 63