Qatar plans new law to protect expatriate domestic workers

July 23rd, 2008 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, July 23 (IANS) Qatar plans a new law that is aimed at protecting the rights of foreign domestic workers. “Domestic workers usually don’t fall under the purview of labour laws in the Gulf,” India’s Ambassador to Qatar George Joseph told IANS from Doha.

“The local government here (in Qatar) is now planning a separate legislation for (expatriate) domestic workers and they are very close to bringing it to effect,” he said.

Of the around 320,000 expatriate Indian population in Qatar, an estimated 40,000 fall in the domestic worker category, which mainly includes drivers and female household workers.

The ambassador had earlier proposed a central pool of foreign domestic workers in Qatar to be sponsored directly by the government agency.

Elaborating on his proposal, Joseph said: “Since domestic workers aren’t covered under labour laws, their employer has complete power over them since the employer is also their sponsor. In case of a dispute, the worker not only ends up losing his or her job but also faces the prospect of leaving the country.”

It was because of this, he said, that having the government as the sponsor of the domestic worker would be a far better alternative.

“In case there is a dispute between the employer and the worker, the government agency can take back the worker and re-deploy him or her somewhere else. Or in a worst-case scenario, send the worker back to the home country. Otherwise, it is such a waste of human resource,” he said, adding that the new law would lead to a win-win situation for both sides.

The ambassador said he has submitted his proposal to the authorities in Qatar and a copy was given to India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) last year.

Asked to link his proposal with Qatar’s planned new legislation, he said: “One has to be patient. You never know; the new legislation might be even better than what I have proposed.”

Earlier, talking about his proposal, Joseph told the Gulf Times newspaper that the government agency sponsoring the domestic worker would retain the worker’s passport and other documents.

The agency can then deploy the worker with a Qatari employer through an agreement, which would ensure that food, accommodation, medical care and other incidentals were taken care of.

The employer should deposit an agreed sum of money to the government agency from which the agency would pay the worker’s salary to his or her bank account.

Such a system, said Joseph, would create a healthy relationship between the employer and the employee and remove all scope of issues like human trafficking, illegal stay and non-payment of salaries.

Since January last year, over 195 Indian housemaids had sought refuge at the embassy, following complaints of physical torture and sexual abuse.

During the same period, the ambassador told the newspaper, over 15 men had been taken by their sponsors in Qatar to Saudi Arabia and allegedly abandoned in the desert, without proper papers, food, water or medical attention.

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