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Nordic Statement on Qatar (Convention N° 29)

International Labour Conference, 104th session, Committee for the Application of Standards, June 10th 2015, individual case on Qatar on Convention N° 29 concerning Forced Labour.

Thank you, Chair.

 

1. I speak on behalf of the governments of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

 

2. We support the statement made on behalf of the EU and its member states.

 

3.   Human rights are universal. No one should be deprived of his or her fundamental rights and freedoms. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of every state to promote and protect human rights and prevent all forms of discrimination and abuse.

 

 4. We advocate the universal ratification and implementation of the eight ILO fundamental conventions. We believe that the compliance with these – including Convention number 29 on Forced labour – is fundamental to justice, sustainable development and inclusive growth.

 

5. We thank the Government of Qatar for the information before this Committee today.

 

6. We find the numerous and well-documented accounts of unacceptable working and living conditions among migrant workers in Qatar to be of grave concern. We are concerned by the serious reports of widespread use and persistent practices of exploitation and forced labour linked to the kafala sponsorship system.

 

7.  Many migrants in the country find themselves in situations of forced labour on account of a number of factors such as contract substitution, restrictions on their freedom to leave their employment relationship or the country, the nonpayment of wages, and the threat of retaliation. We find the situation of women in domestic work in private households to be of particular concern.

 

8. We discussed these matters as recently as during the 323rd session of the Governing Body of the ILO in March 2015, when the complaint case on Qatar, submitted under article 26 of the ILO constitution was considered. We on that occasion supported the initial decision point to appoint a Commission of Inquiry, because of the seriousness and urgency of the case. The fact that Qatar is the subject of a discussion in the Committee on Application of Standards shows that problems regrettably still exist.

 

9. In light of the thousands of migrant workers that are expected to be recruited for the preparations of the 2022 Football World Cup, and the high number of fatal accidents that have already occurred at different construction sites, we would like to remind Qatar of its responsibilities regarding fundamental principles and rights at work for these workers. The legal and political solutions that will give workers their rights, and create the conditions for a safe World Cup in 2022, are available to the Government of Qatar. And beyond the World Cup preparations, the Government must ensure that these rights are extended to all migrant workers in the country.

 

10.  We therefore once again call on the Government of Qatar to act up to their commitment and urgently abolish the kafala sponsorship system so workers can change employers, and freely leave the country. We have taken note that a bill has been drafted to repeal the system of sponsorship and to replace it by work contracts. We expect that the new legislation on migrant workers will be enacted in the near future, and that it will be drafted in such a way as to protect them against any form of exploitation and provide them with the full enjoyment of their right’s at work. In particular, we urge the Government to eliminate any restrictions placed on the freedom of association rights of migrant workers and ensure that they are free to form and join trade unions, and to collectively bargain for fair wages and safe work. We also urge the Government to overhaul the grievance procedures for labour complaints and ensure that adequate penalties are applied for violations.

 

11. We call on the Government of Qatar to work with international recruitment companies to secure a rights based migration process, in conformity with international labour standards and to deal with the mass recruitment of migrant workers. We urge the Government of Qatar to work closely with and support the governments of sending countries in order to promote and protect the fundamental rights of workers from these countries in the recruitment process as well as to improve their working and living conditions once in Qatar.

 

12. Finally, recognizing the pivotal role played by the ILO in developing, promoting and supervising international labour standards, we strongly encourage the Government of Qatar to step up its engagement and cooperation with the ILO. We will continue to follow the development in Qatar closely.