58% of Quatar’s population are foreign migrants living in “labour camps”; the population is likely to surge significantly ahead of the football World Cup that the Emirate will host in 2022.
Figures released by the Ministry of Development and Planning on Sunday, June 5, reveal that Qatar has a population of 1,4 million workers who dwell in residential areas that human rights groups describe as “squalid.”
Addressing the criticism, the Emirate plans to develop the labour camps outside the main urban centers. Currently, the Emirate is spending €727 million to build a Labour City south of the Capital Doha. This is one of seven townships to accommodate over a quarter of a million people. The towns will have shopping and recreational facilities.
The data on labour migration living conditions was collected in April 2015, when Qatar’s population was just over 2,4 million people. Meanwhile, both the native and foreign populations are growing rapidly. The oil-and-gas rich Emirate that had a population of less than 400,000 in 1986.
Servants living in Qatar are mostly men from India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. They work in labour intensive industries that are key to the Emirate’s economy, including construction and tourism. But, there are also tens of thousands of servants, many of whom are considered trafficking victims.
The official Kafala provides grossly asymmetrical power to employers and is widely held responsible for encouraging exploitation. Under the Kafala system, workers in Qatar need their employer’s permission to change employer or travel.
According to the Global Slavery Index created by the Australian Walk Free Foundation, the Middle East is home to approximately 2,94 million “slaves,” defined as people who are exploited but cannot leave their occupation due to threats, violence, coercion or abuse of power. Qatar is estimated to have the highest per capita rate of slavery in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Libya.
Migrant workers commonly have their passports confiscated by their employers, Amnesty International reports. By the end of 2016 the government has committed to enforce online migrant payment schemes, so that payments can be monitored and enforced. Refusal to pay is often cited as a common challenge among migrant workers.