Qatar: Ensure Fair Trial of Ex-Qatar 2022 Official

Qatar: Ensure Fair Trial of Ex-Qatar 2022 Official

Qatari authorities should ensure a fair trial for a 35-year-old Jordanian man who is appealing a five-year prison sentence for offenses including misuse of funds and bribery, Human Rights Watch and FairSquare said today. The lower court trial of Abdullah Ibhais, which concluded in April 2021, ignored credible allegations that his confession, the basis of the prosecution’s case, was obtained via intimidation and coercion. A third and possibly final session in his appeal hearing is scheduled for October 6.

Ibhais previously was media and communications director for Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and the case relates to allegations that he sought a bribe for awarding a contract. Ibhais told Human Rights Watch and FairSquare that he believes the charges were in retaliation for his criticism of the handling of a migrant workers’ strike in Qatar in August 2019, which Human Rights Watch and Migrant-Rights.org documented at the time.

“Qatari authorities appear to have robbed Abdullah Ibhais of his right to a fair trial in proceedings that raise serious concerns about Qatar’s justice system,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately investigate allegations that his confession was coerced and whether the Supreme Committee used the justice system to retaliate against an employee for internal criticism.”

Human Rights Watch and FairSquare examined the court judgment and testimony by four witnesses and other case documents. The judgment indicates that Ibhais’s confession was central to his conviction of “bribery,” “violation of the integrity of tenders and profits,” and “intentional damage to public funds,” for which he received a five-year prison sentence and a fine of 150,000 Qatari riyals (US$41,197) on April 29.

The court ignored the defendant’s allegations that Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers denied him access to legal counsel during his interrogation and coerced him into signing this confession, which his lawyer argued in court should be thrown out.

The analysis of the court documents and testimony suggests that the rest of the evidence against Ibhais is vague, circumstantial, and in some cases contradictory.

The charges against Ibhais and two other defendants – his brother, who lives in Turkey, and another Turkish man – relate to a Supreme Committee tender for social media services. Ibhais told Human Rights Watch and FairSquare that on the morning of November 12, 2019, the Supreme Committee’s Human Resources director called Ibhais to a meeting where six police officers wearing Qatari traditional robes were waiting to speak to him.

The officers refused to say who they were or why they wanted to speak to him, although he later learned they were from the CID. The officers took him to the CID offices in Duhail, in northern Doha, where officers handcuffed him.

During his interrogation that afternoon, Ibhais said, he was denied access to a lawyer. Ibhais said that one officer told him that “we’ll break his leg [the lawyer’s] before he enters this facility” and the officer leading the interview told him, “You don’t get to ask for a lawyer here.” A third officer said, “Either you sign a confession here or we send you to state security, where they know how to get a confession out of you.”

The officers told him that if he signed, he could go home. When Ibhais refused, one of the officers said, “We will keep you there for six months, and nobody will know where you are.” At that point, he said, he agreed to sign.

The short confession said that he had awarded a Supreme Committee tender to a Turkish bidder in return for Turkish citizenship. He said he told the officer that the confession made no sense because the Supreme Committee hadn’t accepted any of the bids and that he had proof that all bids were rejected.

After signing the confession, he said, the officers drove him home, told him to sign a consent form to search his house, and confiscated phones, laptops, and tablets. They did not let him see his wife or children, then they took him to the CID offices in Duhail, where they placed him in a six-by-four meter cell with 12 to 14 other detainees.

The following morning, he said, police took him to the state security prosecutor, where he was again interviewed and denied access to a lawyer or permission to call his wife. Ibhais said that three men from the state security prosecutor’s office interviewed him that afternoon. One of the men said, “Do you think you are in an American movie? This is state security. You answer yes or no, and that’s it.” The prosecutor read out the confession and asked him to confirm that it was his.

He said that it was but that he had only signed it because he was pressured to. The prosecutor said that there were further charges against him but that if he confessed to the misuse of public funds, he could be removed from state security custody and have a defense lawyer, he said. He signed the second confession, he said, because he was “horrified by the possibility of a state security prosecution.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which visited Qatar in 2019, criticized article 7 of Qatar’s State Security Service Law (No. 5 of 2003), which allows detention for up to six months for vague offenses such as, “activities which are harmful to the security and stability of the state and its relationships with other countries.”

The Working Group noted that it had received “credible allegations of prolonged detention without judicial control and of ill-treatment” at state security detention facilities, which Qatar prevented it from visiting. Human rights organizations have previously documented instances in which confessions have been extracted through torture and ill-treatment in Qatari detention.

Ibhais did not receive any legal assistance until November 21, nine days after his initial arrest.

Ibhais said he finally saw a lawyer hired by his wife on November 21 and was released on December 21, after paying bail of 3,000 Qatari riyals ($824). Before his trial began on January 19, 2021, Ibhais was represented by three lawyers, but none were able to secure copies of the case file or see the evidence against him. Ibhais applied for copies of his case file via the public prosecutor’s online system on July 6, and December 8, 2020, but the public prosecutor refused without explanation. Human Rights Watch and FairSquare have seen documentation of these refusals.

On January 18, Ibhais received an email from the Court of First Instance telling him to attend the first session of his trial the following day. At the time, he had no legal representation, and was compelled to hire a lawyer the same day. His lawyer applied for a copy of his case file on January 19 and received the file shortly after. Hearings were held on January 19, February 2, February 17, and March 4.

At the March 4 session, he said, the judge abruptly terminated proceedings and announced that he would issue a judgment on April 19. Ibhais said he was given no opportunity to address the court. The judge denied a motion from his lawyer to present the defense’s case.

The court found Ibhais guilty of misuse of public funds, bribery, collusion to commit bribery, and causing harm to the Supreme Committee. The court convicted his brother in absentia and acquitted the third defendant, whom Ibhais says he does not know nor has never met.  

The court rejected Ibhais’s plea to invalidate the confession on the basis that it was extracted under threat and coercion and during interrogations that denied him the presence of a lawyer. The court said it has full discretion “to decide whether a confession is valid or not at any stage of the investigations” regardless of whether the accused recants the confession in court. The court stated that it was assured of the authenticity of the confession and that it was made voluntarily.    

Other aspects of the judgment raise serious concerns. It refers to testimony from nine witnesses, but Ibhais said that only four witnesses appeared in court. The judgment states that Ibhais and his co-defendant intended to “award the tender” to a bidder in return for a bribe, but the court record indicates that three of the witnesses said it was not in Ibhais’s power to do so and described procedures that would have made it impossible for him to decisively influence a tender decision. The court recognized that the tender was not awarded to the company from whom it was alleged that Ibhais had solicited a bribe.

No fair trial is possible when defendants do not have full access to their lawyers or prompt access to the evidence against them, and time and resources to prepare for trial, or if evidence obtained under duress is used to convict them, Human Rights Watch and FairSquare said.

“Sending a key staff member for the World Cup’s Supreme Committee to languish in prison following a grossly unfair trial could cast a dark cloud over the event,” said Nicholas McGeehan, founding director at FairSquare Research and Projects.

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Amnesty report on deaths of migrant workers in Qatar

New report finds Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers

A new report published today by Amnesty International, with the support of FairSquare, finds that Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade, despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions.

FairSquare Research provided research support and advice to Amnesty on “In the prime of their lives”: Qatar’s failure to investigate, remedy and prevent migrant workers’ deaths.

The report documents how Qatar routinely issues death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations, instead attributing deaths to “natural causes” or vaguely defined cardiac failures. These certifications – described by one leading pathologist as “meaningless” – rule out the possibility of compensation for bereaved families, many of whom are already facing financial difficulties after losing their main breadwinner.

The publication also highlights the risks posed to workers by Qatar’s extreme climate, especially when combined with excessive and physically strenuous working hours. Qatar recently introduced some new protections for workers, but major risks remain and authorities have done little to investigate the scale of heat-related deaths. Steve Cockburn of Amnesty said:

“In failing to investigate the underlying causes of migrant workers’ deaths, the Qatari authorities are ignoring warning signs which could, if addressed, save lives. This is a violation of the right to life. They are also denying bereaved families their right to remedy, and leaving them with painful unanswered questions.”

FairSquare is separately working with a network of partner organisations on the Vital Signs project, an initiative to quantify and research the deaths of migrant workers from five Asian origin countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines – in the six GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE).

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Kenyan labour rights activist leaves Qatar after paying hefty fine for publishing “false news”

Joint statement: Kenyan labour rights activist leaves Qatar after paying hefty fine for publishing “false news”

Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national, who was forcibly disappeared by Qatari authorities on 4 May and held in solitary confinement for a month, has finally been allowed to leave the country after paying a hefty fine for his human rights activism. The 28-year-old is a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms.

On 14 July, Qatar’s Supreme Judiciary Council handed down a criminal order stating Malcolm Bidali had broadcast and published “false news with the intent of endangering the public system of the state” under Article 6 of the controversial cybercrime law arising purely from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. The charges violate international human rights law and standards and particularly the right to freedom of expression, and as such the Qatari authorities should take immediate steps to have the unjust ‘conviction’ quashed. Malcolm was ordered to pay a fine of QR25,000 (approximately US $6,800), as well as having his personal mobile confiscated and his social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram (@NoahArticulates) through which “the crime was committed”, blocked.

Throughout his detention Malcolm Bidali was denied access to legal counsel. The criminal order was handed down without him ever having been formally charged, brought before a court or even informed of the nature of the criminal charges he was facing, even after he obtained access to a lawyer following his conditional release on 31 May.

Although dated 14 July, Malcolm Bidali was only made aware of the criminal order on 27 July 2021, two weeks after it was issued, leaving only one day to appeal the decision. An organization working on the rights of migrant workers paid the fine and he was allowed to leave Qatar on 16 August.

Speaking after leaving, Malcolm Bidali said:

“I’m extremely fortunate to have gotten out (relatively) unscathed, given the selection of charges levelled against me. Outrageous charges, and an even more outrageous fine, for simply sharing our lived experiences and pointing out shortcomings of the specific entities responsible for workers’ welfare, none of which translates to ‘misinformation’.

“What I learnt from this was that a) free speech is expensive, and b) free speech is immensely effective. The latter is why so many activists and advocates do what they do, despite the very real risks involved. It’s an honour for me to be counted as one.

“I’d like to thank all involved from the moment I was detained, all the way to my release.”


Amnesty International, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, FairSquare, Human Rights Watch and Migrant-Rights.org, a coalition of civil society organizations that have advocated on Malcolm Bidali’s behalf since his detention, welcomed the news of his departure from Qatar after almost four months, but remain concerned that his treatment stemmed solely from his legitimate human rights activism, and what this means for other migrant workers and freedom of expression more widely. The coalition calls on Qatar to urgently reform its judicial processes, including the cybercrime law that has been used against Malcolm. The coalition said:

“While we are relieved that Malcolm Bidali’s ordeal is over and he has finally been able to leave Qatar, he should never have been detained in the first place. It has been clear all along that he was being penalized for his human rights activism, and this unjust ‘conviction’ for spreading ‘false information’ only confirms that.

“Malcolm’s abduction, forced disappearance, detention, interrogation and hefty fine – all carried out without due process – risk leaving a chilling legacy on freedom of expression in Qatar. If the government is serious about protecting human rights ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it must stop using abusive laws to criminalize those who dare to speak up in the country, including about the dire treatment of the very migrant workers making the tournament possible. The abuse and exploitation Malcolm wrote about through his blogs and social media accounts has been well documented by human rights and labour rights organizations over many years.”

 
A SERIES OF DUE PROCESS VIOLATIONS

The detention and conviction of Malcolm Bidali was beset with a raft of due process violations from the moment of his arrest.

ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE
On 4 May, Malcolm was taken at the request of the Qatari authorities from his labour accommodation to the state security office for questioning. He was then forcibly disappeared by state security services for almost a month. During this time, the authorities refused to reveal Malcolm’s whereabouts to his family or explain why he had been detained, despite repeated requests for information from his mother and human rights and labour rights organizations. On 12 May, Qatari authorities acknowledged that Malcolm Bidali was in their custody, but would not disclose his location.

An enforced disappearance is a crime under international law, which, according to the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances, occurs when any person is arrested or otherwise detained by agents of the state, “followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place(s) such a person outside the protection of the law.”

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AND LACK OF LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Following his enforced disappearance, the Qatari authorities held Malcolm Bidali in solitary confinement for 26 days, until his conditional release from custody on 31 May.

On 20 May, Qatari state security services permitted Malcolm to call his mother, following an intervention by the Kenyan ambassador in Qatar. In the 10-minute phone call, he assured his mother that he had not been harmed but was unable to tell her where he was being held or why. He said he was being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and that he had no legal representation. He also told his mother that two officers were present as he made the call.

During his detention, Qatari interrogators repeatedly questioned Malcolm without the presence of a lawyer and made him sign multiple papers in Arabic, a language he does not understand, without written translation.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Qatar is obligated to ensure that everyone has the right to due process, and that no one is arbitrarily detained or subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The right to due process includes the right of all suspects or accused to have access to and assistance of legal counsel from the outset of any criminal investigation and throughout questioning. The Special Rapporteur on torture has recommended that anyone who has been arrested “should be given access to legal counsel no later than 24 hours after the arrest”.

Further, the ICCPR and the Convention Against Torture, to which Qatar is also a state party, prohibits the use in court of any evidence obtained through coercion, which includes, but is not limited to, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Prolonged solitary confinement – as Malcolm Bidali was subjected to – can constitute torture. Under international law, as reflected in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), solitary confinement can be used “only in exceptional cases as a last resort, for as short a time as possible”. Further, as the UN special rapporteur on torture described in 2020, prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 consecutive days is considered a form of torture, and is therefore also a form of prohibited coercion.

As such, Qatar should have excluded from court proceedings any “evidence” gathered while Malcolm Bidali was being held in solitary confinement.

TRUMPED-UP CHARGES AND A TRAVEL BAN
On 29 May, Qatar’s Government Communications Office (GCO) released a statement to the press saying Malcolm Bidali had “been officially charged with offences related to payment received from a foreign agent for the creation and distribution of disinformation within the State of Qatar”.

However, Malcolm was not aware of any charges brought against him and when he was conditionally released two days later on 31 May, told his mother he would be free to leave the country. Since then, he was prohibited from travelling and did not receive any official charge sheet. The GCO statement also said that Malcolm was “receiving legal advice and representation”, although that was not the case until he left detention.

Indeed, when Malcolm was finally presented with official record of charges against him, they did not relate to receipt of payments from foreign agents, but rather to his online activism.

The right to due process also includes the right to be informed promptly after arrest, and in a language the accused understands, of the nature of charges faced. This is critical to the effective exercise of the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention. Once formal charges are brought, the accused has the right to be given sufficiently detailed information about the charges to enable them to prepare their defence. This includes information about the law under which they are charged and the alleged facts which form the basis of the accusation. According to UN Human Rights Council General Comment 32, “The right to be informed of the charge “promptly” requires that information be given as soon as the person concerned is formally charged with a criminal offence under domestic law, or the individual is publicly named as such.”

SUPPRESSION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
On 28 July, Malcolm Bidali was presented with a criminal order from Qatar’s Supreme Judiciary Council, however up until this point he had not been informed, whether formally or informally, of the charges or allegations against him. The order was dated 14 July but was not relayed to Malcolm or his lawyer until two weeks later, leaving him with just one day to appeal. It stated that after reviewing “evidence and all the papers and documents accompanied by it”, it found Malcolm had “established and published false news with the intent of endangering the public system of the state” – “criminal” acts which it says are punishable under Article 6 of the Cyber Crime Prevention Law of 2014. Article 6 carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of QAR 500,000 (approximately US $137,000) for anyone who “through an information network or an information technology technique sets up or runs a website to publish false news to threaten the safety and security of the State or its public order or domestic and foreign security.” Anyone who “promotes, disseminates or publishes in any way such false news for the same purpose” can be punished with up to a year in prison and a fine of QAR 250,000 (US $68,000).

Multiple credible organizations have called on Qatar to repeal or significantly amend the cybercrime law under which Malcolm was charged. When the law was published in 2014, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists stated that, “this law is ostensibly to stop cybercrime but at least two articles [including Article 6] will severely restrict freedom of expression, which is not a crime”. Amnesty International raised particular concerns about provisions on “false news” and said the law contained “broad and vaguely-worded provisions that fly in the face of international standards”. The governments of France, Czechia, Sweden and Austria all called on Qatar in its 2019 Universal Periodic Review to make amendments to the law to bring it into compliance with international standards on free expression.

More recently, Qatar amended the penal code introducing vaguely worded provisions criminalizing a broad range of speech and publishing activities further restricting freedom of expression in Qatar. This is contrary to the ICCPR, which Qatar received international praise for joining in 2018, Article 19 of which guarantees the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

BACKGROUND
After arriving in Qatar in 2018, Malcolm Bidali had been on the front line of the fight to reform Qatar’s labour laws, including by writing about his experiences as a migrant worker in the country. Malcolm tweeted about labour abuses in Qatar using a pseudonym and a week before his arrest, gave a presentation to a large group of civil society organizations and trade unions about his experiences working in Qatar.

On 26 April 2021, a Twitter user tagged Malcolm Bidali in a tweet containing a graphic which Human Rights Watch had used for an August 2020 report about wage abuse in Qatar. The tweet also contained what appeared to be a YouTube link to a Human Rights Watch publication. However, according to Amnesty International’s analysis, the link led to a suspicious URL capable of recording the IP address and other data about the person who clicked on it. This is a social engineering tactic known as phishing, and may have been used to identify or locate Malcolm. State security forces detained him on 4 May, barely a week after the phishing attack.

Under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, governments must actively protect human rights defenders from harm. They have an obligation to put in place social and legal structures to create environments that are safe and supportive for human rights defenders to carry out their work.

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Kuwait and Qatar must be more decisive in their efforts to tackle abusive recruitment of migrant workers

Kuwait and Qatar must be more decisive in their efforts to tackle abusive recruitment of migrant workers

Nepali migrant workers cleaning windows in Kuwait © Dominique Berbain/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Report into recruitment practices calls on Kuwait to fully ban the payment of recruitment fees for all categories of migrant workers, and recommends that Qatar make employers liable for the actions of  intermediaries in the recruitment process.

Kuwait and Qatar should both strengthen their laws to ban the payment of recruitment fees by all migrant workers, irrespective of where that payment is made, and should significantly increase their focus on stamping out abusive recruitment practices, FairSquare said today in a 162 page report into recruitment of migrant workers in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Nepal to Kuwait and Qatar: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Nepal are recruited for work in Kuwait and Qatar, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

Kuwait, the report said, should also ensure that its efforts to increase the number of Kuwaiti nationals in the workforce, known as Kuwaitisation, is carried out in a way which protects, rather than undermines the human rights of migrant workers, and should take measures to address xenophobia and discrimination against migrant workers. The report commended Kuwait’s explicit and comprehensive prohibition of recruitment fee payment in the Domestic Workers Law, an important measure which could reduce domestic worker indebtedness if effectively enforced.

FairSquare also recommended that the Qatari authorities proactively investigate cases of “kickback” payments by origin country agencies to Qatar employers or their representatives in exchange for jobs. The report welcomed Qatar’s introduction of legislative reforms between 2018 and 2020 removing legal impediments on workers’ job mobility and ability to return home, while noting the critical importance of effective enforcement, and its efforts to reduce the prevalence of workers’ terms and conditions being altered (or “substituted”), through the establishment of Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs). 

“Abusive recruitment of migrant workers is often portrayed by governments in the Gulf region as a problem for origin states to deal with. But the reality is that destination states like Kuwait and Qatar have more leverage and bear more responsibility for dealing with the problem of exploitative fee charging and other abuse. They are the governments that regulate employers, who are by far the most powerful private actors in the recruitment process, with access to jobs, visas and budgets,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

“Kuwait and Qatar have to put their full weight behind making sure employers are paying the full amount for every worker they recruit into the country.”

Kuwait
Ninety percent of Kuwaiti households have at least one domestic worker, the majority of them women, with many facing abuse, including physical and sexual violence. In 2015, Kuwait adopted legal reforms that provide greater protections to domestic workers’ rights. However, FairSquare found that enforcement of these protections is weak. A 30 year old Nepali woman told researchers she was working 16 hour days for a Kuwait family and was desperate to go back home, but her employers were refusing to return her passport: “if I had it I would have left the country some time ago. My mother is sick but they keep on postponing dates for me to leave.”

There are grievance mechanisms for all migrant workers to make complaints, but many workers fear being falsely accused of “absconding” from employers, a criminal offence, as a reprisal for their complaint. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kuwaiti government announced it would stop accepting “absconding” complaints, as it was receiving so many false reports from employers.

Kuwait’s laws clearly ban the payment of recruitment fees by domestic workers, but are unclear who should pay for the costs of other migrant workers’ recruitment, effectively making payment by these workers legal, and severely undermining the prospect of fair recruitment. A representative of a state-owned recruitment agency said that the payment of recruitment fees by workers was a problem that origin state governments should deal with.

Qatar
Abusive recruitment practices, including deception over terms and conditions, have been widely documented in Qatar. The report features a Nepali woman who told researchers that her recruiter said that she would be selling coffee in a market but when she arrived, “it was completely different. I am currently working as a household cleaner which was exactly what we were told we would not be doing.”

Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs) in origin countries are supposed to prevent such practices by allowing workers the opportunity to properly review their contracts before migrating. A 47-year old Nepali worker, who said he was illiterate, told researchers that QVC officials talked him through his benefits package and that in Qatar he received “the same wages and benefits as briefed to me”. Nevertheless he still had to pay 56,000 rupees (USD 471) to an agency before travelling, highlighting that the establishment of the QVCs have not stopped workers paying recruitment fees. Qatar’s labour laws clearly prohibit worker payment to Qatari businesses but leave ambiguity about payments made outside the country, including in origin states, undermining efforts to implement the ”employer pays principle”.

FairSquare is recommending that the Qatari authorities should close the accountability gap by making employers liable for the actions of the third-party intermediaries they use to arrange the recruitment of the migrant workforces, and requiring them to demonstrate to labour inspectors their efforts to ensure fair recruitment. While some organisations and businesses in Qatar have pursued positive fair recruitment initiatives, other employers refuse to pay recruitment agencies for their services and even demand “kickback” payments before awarding contracts to recruiters in origin states. The cost of such payments are generally passed by agents onto migrant workers. A former HR manager in Qatar’s construction sector told us some of his clients had engaged in these practices and that they saw recruitment as a means of making money for themselves.

Background
The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 133 in-depth interviews in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, employers, NGOs, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM.

The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Canada, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in Arabic, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org 

For comment please contact James Lynch at [email protected]

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على الكويت وقطر أن تكونا أكثر حزمًا في جهودهما لمعالجة الاستقدام المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين

على الكويت وقطر أن تكونا أكثر حزمًا في جهودهما لمعالجة الاستقدام المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين

© Dominique BERBAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

يناشد التقرير حول ممارسات التوظيف الكويت بأن تحظر كليًا رسوم التوظيف لجميع فئات العمّال المهاجرين، كما يوصي قطر بأن تحمّل أرباب العمل المسؤولية عن أفعال الوسطاء في عملية التوظيف.
 
قالت FairSquare اليوم في تقرير من 162 صفحة حول استقدام العمّال المهاجرين في نيبال، والكويت، وقطر إنّه على الكويت وقطر أن ترسّخا قوانينهما لحظر دفع العمّال المهاجرين لرسوم التوظيف، بغضّ النظر عن مكان تسديد هذه الرسوم، وعليهما أن تعزّزا تركيزهما على ردع الممارسات التوظيفية المسيئة بشكل ملحوظ.
 
إنّ FairSquare Projects منظمة غير ربحية لحقوق الإنسان تركّز على مسائل حقوق العمّال المهاجرين. يشكّل التقرير بعنوان “من نيبال إلى الكويت وقطر: مراجعة للتوظيف العادل”، الذي يستعرض كيفية استقدام العمّال من نيبال للعمل في الكويت وقطر، جزءًا من مشروع الممرّات الخمسة الذي يسعى إلى تقديم توجيهات حول ما يمكن للدول أن تفعله لتأمين توظيف أخلاقي وعادل.
ذكر التقرير أنّه على الكويت أن تحرص على تطبيق جهودها في زيادة عدد المواطنين الكويتيين في القوّة العاملة، أو ما يُعرف بسياسة التكويت، بأسلوب يحمي حقوق الإنسان للعمّال المهاجرين بدلًا من تقويضها، وأن تتّخذ إجراءات لمعالجة رهاب الأجانب والتمييز ضدّ العمّال المهاجرين. أثنى التقرير على حظر الكويت الصريح والشامل لدفع رسوم توظيف بموجب “قانون العمالة المنزلية”، في تدبير مهمّ قد يحدّ من مديونية عمّال المنازل، في حال إنفاذه الفعّال.  
 
أوصت FairSquare أيضًا السلطات القطرية بالتحقيق الاستباقي في قضايا دفع “رشاوى” من وكالات في دول المنشأ إلى أرباب العمل القطريين أو ممثليهم لقاء وظائف. 

رحّب التقرير بالإصلاحات التشريعية التي أجرتها قطر بين 2018 و2020 لإزالة العقبات القانونية أمام تنقّل العمّال بين الوظائف وقدرتهم على العودة إلى ديارهم، ونوّه إلى الأهمية الخاصّة للإنفاذ الفعّال وإلى جهود قطر في الحدّ من انتشار ظاهرة تغيير شروط وظروف توظيف العمّال (أو “استبدالها”) من خلال تأسيس مراكز تأشيرات قطر. 

قال المدير المشارك في تأسيس FairSquare جايمس لينش: “غالبًا ما تصوّر الحكومات في منطقة الخليج التوظيف المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين كمشكلة يجب أن تعالجها دول المنشأ. لكن، في الواقع، دول المقصد مثل الكويت وقطر تملك قوّة تأثير أكبر ولديها مسؤولية أكبر في التعاطي مع مسألة تقاضي رسوم استغلالية وغيرها من الانتهاكات. فهي الحكومات التي تنظّم أرباب العمل الذين هم إلى حد بعيد أقوى الجهات الفاعلة الخاصّة في عملية التوظيف، مع إمكانية الوصول إلى الوظائف والتأشيرات والميزانيات. ينبغي أن تحرص كلّ من الكويت وقطر بكلّ ثقلهما على تسديد أرباب العمل للمبلغ الكامل عن كلّ عامل تستقدمانه إلى بلدَيْهما”.
 
الكويت
في 90% من المنازل الكويتية، ثمّة على الأقلّ عامل منزل واحد، أغلبيتهم من النساء اللواتي يواجهن اعتداءات، بما فيها العنف الجسدي والجنسي. في 2015، تبنّت الكويت إصلاحات قانونية تؤمّن حمايات أكبر لحقوق عمّال المنازل. مع ذلك، وجدت FairSquare أنّ إنفاذ هذه التدابير الحمائية ضعيف. قالت امرأة نيبالية، 30 عامًا، إنّها تعمل 16 ساعة في اليوم لحساب عائلة كويتية، وكانت شديدة اليأس للعودة إلى ديارها، لكنّ أرباب العمل رفضوا إعادة جواز سفرها إليها. قالت: “لو كان جواز سفري بحوزتي، لكنت غادرت البلاد منذ فترة. والدتي مريضة، لكنّهم يستمرّون في تأجيل تاريخ رحيلي”. 
 
تتوفّر آليات تظلّم لجميع العمّال المهاجرين كي يقدّموا شكاوى، لكن يخشى كثيرون منهم أن يتّهمهم أرباب عملهم زورًا بـ”الهروب” الذي يُعتبر جرمًا، للانتقام منهم بسبب شكواهم. في 2020، في ظلّ جائحة “كوفيد-19″، أعلنت الحكومة الكويتية عن التوقّف عن قبول شكاوى “الهروب”، لأنّها كانت تتلقّى الكثير من التبليغات الكاذبة من أرباب العمل.
تحظر القوانين الكويتية صراحةً دفع عمّال المنازل لرسوم التوظيف، لكنّها مبهمة حيال الجهة التي يجب أن تتكفّل بهذه التكاليف عن استقدام عمّال مهاجرين آخرين. بالتالي، بات تكبّد هؤلاء العمّال التكاليف قانونيًا، ما يقوّض بشدّة آفاق التوظيف العادل. قال ممثّل عن وكالة توظيف مملوكة للدولة إنّ تسديد العمّال لرسوم التوظيف مشكلة يجب أن تعالجها حكومات دول المنشأ.
 
قطر
تمّ توثيق ممارسات التوظيف المسيئة، بما فيها الخداع في الشروط والظروف، بشكل واسع في قطر. يتضمّن التقرير شهادة امرأة نيبالية أخبرت الباحثين أنّ الجهة التي وظّفتها قالت لها إنّها ستبيع القهوة في أحد الأسواق، لكن عند وصولها، “كان الأمر مختلفًا تمامًا. أعمل حاليًا كعاملة تنظيف في منزل، وهذا تحديدًا ما قيل لنا إنّنا لن نفعله”.

من المفترض أن تمنع مراكز تأشيرات قطر في بلدان المنشأ مثل هذه الممارسات عبر السماح للعمّال بمراجعة عقودهم بشكل مناسب قبل هجرتهم. أخبر عامل نيبالي، 47 عامًا، قال إنّه أمّي، الباحثين أنّ المسؤولين في مركز تأشيرات قطر شرحوا له عن حزمة المنافع وأطلعوه على أنّه سيتلقّى “الراتب والمنافع نفسها التي شُرحت لي” في قطر. مع ذلك، اضطُرّ إلى دفع 56 ألف روبيه (471 دولار) لوكالة قبل سفره، ما يؤكّد أنّ تأسيس مراكز تأشيرات قطر لم يحمِ العمّال من دفع رسوم التوظيف. تمنع قوانين العمل في قطر بوضوح دفع العمّال للشركات القطرية، لكنّ الإبهام يحيط بالدفع الذي يجري خارج البلاد، بما في ذلك في بلدان المنشأ، ما يقوّض الجهود الرامية إلى تطبيق “مبدأ ربّ العمل يدفع”.
 
توصي FairSquare السلطات القطرية بسدّ ثغرة المحاسبة عبر تحميل أرباب العمل المسؤولية عن أفعال الوسطاء، أي الطرف الثالث، المعتمدين لترتيب استقدام القوى العاملة الوافدة، وإلزامهم بإبراز جهودهم في تأمين التوظيف العادل أمام المفتّشين العماليين. بينما اعتمدت بعض المنظمات والشركات في قطر مبادرات إيجابية للتوظيف العادل، يرفض أرباب عمل آخرون الدفع لوكالات التوظيف لقاء خدماتها، ويطلبون حتى “رشاوى” قبل منح جهات التوظيف في دول المنشأ العقود. نتيجة لذلك، بشكل عام، تنتقل هذه التكاليف من العملاء إلى العمّال المهاجرين. أخبرنا مدير سابق لقسم الموارد البشرية في قطاع البناء في قطر أنّ بعض عملائه تورّطوا في ممارسات مماثلة ووجدوا في التوظيف بابًا لكسب المال.
 
معلومات أساسية
تستند نتائج التقرير وتوصياته على 133 مقابلة معمّقة في نيبال والكويت وقطر، بما فيها مع عمّال مهاجرين، ومسؤولين حكوميين، ووكالات توظيف، وأرباب عمل، ومنظمات غير حكومية، وممثلين عن نقابات عمّالية، وأكاديميين، ومراكز فكرية، وصحفيين، ومحامين، وممثلين عن منظمات ما بين الحكومات مثل منظمة العمل الدولية والمنظمة الدولية للهجرة.

الدول الخمس الأخرى التي يشملها مشروع الممرّات الخمسة هي كندا، والمكسيك، وميانمار، ونيبال، والفلبين، وتايوان، وتايلاند.
تتوفّر نسخة كاملة عن التقرير مع ملخّص عن النتائج باللغة العربية على الرابط التالي: https://fivecorridorsproject.org
 
للإدلاء بأيّ تعليقات، الرجاء التواصل مع جايمس لينش على [email protected]fairsq.org

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Press Release: Nepal should eliminate recruitment fees and increase enforcement capacity to prevent exploitation of its migrant workers

Nepal should eliminate recruitment fees and increase enforcement capacity to prevent exploitation of its migrant workers

Nepalese migrant workers queue to receive official documents in order to leave Nepal © Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty Images)

Report into recruitment practices commends elements of government policy but recommends Nepal drop recruitment fee cap in favour of true ‘zero-cost’ model, in line with international standards.

The Nepali authorities should make all worker fee payment illegal and significantly increase their enforcement capacity, as part of a package of reforms in order to ensure fair recruitment, FairSquare said today in a 162 page report into recruitment practices in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Nepal to Kuwait and Qatar: Fair recruitment in review, which examines how workers from Nepal are recruited for work in Kuwait and Qatar, is part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

In addition to its recommendations on fees and inspections, FairSquare also recommended that the Nepali authorities immediately introduce legislation to make licensed labour recruiters liable for the actions of any unlicensed partners and intermediaries, and that it cooperate and coordinate with other origin states that send workers to the Gulf in the identification of abusive employers. The report commended Nepal’s efforts in a range of areas, including the increased importance it had placed on worker protection in the negotiation of new bilateral arrangements with destination countries including UAE and Malaysia, and the development of technical initiatives aimed at increasing transparency in the recruitment process and eliminating deceitful practices such as contract substitution. 

“Nepal’s migrant workers make huge sacrifices to support their families and Nepal’s economy and they deserve every protection that the Nepali state can provide, which includes ensuring that recruitment is fair. This report reflects where progress has been made in that regard, but its key contribution is in outlining to the government the precise steps that it needs to take to end systematic abuse in the recruitment process, starting with the abolition of fees,” said Anurag Devkota, FairSquare’s Nepal researcher and human rights lawyer at LAPSOJ.

Nepal’s “Free Visa, Free Ticket” policy has since 2015 limited the amount workers can be charged to 10,000 rupees (USD 83) for workers migrating to the Gulf and Malaysia. Nepal calls this “zero cost” recruitment, but in reality, migrant workers routinely pay far in excess of the legal cap, with sums up to 160,000 rupees (around USD 1,350) not uncommon. In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered government bodies to enforce the FVFT policy effectively. The failure to ban recruitment fees outright creates a grey zone that enables agencies to charge far in excess of the legal limit, and the fact that a group of agencies committed to “zero-cost recruitment” has so far been unable to mobilise any workers underscores the failure of the policy. 

Some workers featured in the report said that when they refused to pay fees above the legal cap, agents told them that their jobs did not fall under the policy, or that their employers refused to cover any recruitment-related costs. Others reported not receiving any receipts for the payment of fees, receiving receipts only for 10,000 rupees, or being threatened with deportation if they reported how much they had actually paid. One man, who sold his bike and some gold in order to pay 116,000 rupees (US 965) to fund his migration to Kuwait, told us he was asked on the day he travelled to record a video clip in English stating that he had only paid 10,000 rupees (USD 83), the legal maximum.

Recruitment agencies for their part told us that there is intense competition between origin states for highly prized jobs in the Gulf and Malaysia, and that if they do not charge workers they will not be able to secure jobs from employers. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this competition even fiercer, leaving workers at risk of being charged even higher fees. The Nepali government in 2020 called for “a more concentrated approach among labour sending countries using platforms like the Colombo process” to deal with this problem. The Five Corridors Project is calling on Kuwait, Qatar and other destination countries to more effectively regulate employers to provide a much more consistent demand for ethical, zero-cost recruitment, including tackling the practice of demanding “kickbacks” from recruiters in exchange for demand letters.

The report also details how the Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE)’s investigation capacity and skills are out of step with the scale of the abuses identified in Nepal’s recruitment industry – the department continues to employ only four investigators, while there are more than 800 licensed agencies and tens of thousands of informal subagents. A 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between DOFE and the police has the potential to alleviate capacity problems by allowing Nepali police to carry out preliminary investigations based on worker complaints and to fully investigate unregistered recruiters, but the report recommends that Nepal increase the capacities and capabilities of DOFE investigating staff, and that it increase resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting corruption within the department. The report also recommends that Nepal significantly strengthen the capacity of diplomatic missions in the Gulf to support migrant workers facing exploitation and other abuses. MOLESS has acknowledged that capacity at diplomatic missions in major destination countries is “inadequate”.

“Nepal generates huge sums of money from the remittances that its migrant workers send home, yet it allocates scant resources to ensuring that the ministries with a mandate to protect these workers are adequately staffed and properly trained. That’s a self-defeating policy both in economic and human rights terms”, said Anurag Devkota.

Background
With remittances making up almost a third of its GDP, Nepal is one of the largest remittance recipient countries in the world. 

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 133 in-depth interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Nepal, including NGOs working on migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, recruitment agencies, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM. Interviews were conducted with a number of current and former senior officials at the Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE), Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MOLESS), and the Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. We also spoke to Nepali diplomats at missions in the Gulf. We benefited from the ability to refer to the 2020 MOLESS Labour Migration Report, a thorough and transparent evaluation of Nepal’s migrant labour governance.

The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Canada, Kuwait, Mexico, Myanmar, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. 

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in Nepali, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org

For comment please contact Anurag Devkota at [email protected] or on +977 9851195949

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प्रेस विज्ञप्तिः नेपाल सरकारले वैदेशिक रोजगारीको भर्ना शुल्क खारेज गर्नुपर्छ र वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने कामदारको शोषण रोक्न कानुन कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमता बढाउनुपर्दछ ।

नेपाल सरकारले वैदेशिक रोजगारीको भर्ना शुल्क खारेज गर्नुपर्छ र वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने कामदारको शोषण रोक्न कानुन कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमता बढाउनुपर्दछ ।

© Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty Images

भर्ना अभ्यास सम्बन्धी प्रतिवेदनले सरकारी नीतिका केही अंशहरूको प्रशंसा गर्दछ, तर अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मापदण्ड अनुसार सही अर्थमा ‘शून्य–शुल्क’ हुने गरि नेपाल सरकारले भर्ना शुल्कको सिमा घटाउनुपर्दछ भन्ने सिफारिस गर्दछ ।

आप्रवासी कामदारहरूको अधिकारको विषयमा काम गर्ने गैर–नाफामुखी मानव अधिकार संस्था फेयर स्क्वायर प्रोजेक्ट्स्ले नेपाल, कुवेत र कतारको भर्ना अभ्यासहरूबारे १६२ पृष्ठको प्रतिवेदन जारी गर्दै नेपाल सरकारलाई न्यायोचित भर्ना सुनिश्चित गर्नको निम्ति गरिने सुधारहरूको अंशको रूपमा कामदारहरूले तिर्ने सबै शुल्कलाई गैरकानुनी बनाउन र यस प्रावधानलाई कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमतामा उल्लेख्य वृद्धि गर्न आह्वान गरेकोछ ।

लण्डनमा आधारित फेयर स्क्वायर प्रोजेक्ट्स् आप्रवासी कामदारहरूको अधिकारको विषयमा काम गर्ने गैर–नाफामुखी मानव अधिकार संस्था हो । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाको अंशको रूपमा, नेपालदेखि कुवेत र कतारसम्मः न्यायोचित भर्नाको समीक्षा (नेपाल टु कतार एण्ड  कुवेतः फेयर रिक्रुटमेण्ट इन रिभिउ) शिर्षकको उक्त प्रतिवेदनले नेपालबाट कुवेत र कतारमा कामको निम्ति कामदारहरूलाई कसरी भर्ना गरिन्छ भन्ने विषयको लेखाजोखा गर्दछ । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाले न्यायोचित तथा नैतिक भर्ना सुनिश्चित गर्न राज्यहरूले के गर्न सक्छन् भन्ने विषयमा केही सिफारिसहरू प्रदान गर्ने प्रयास गर्दै आएको छ ।

शुल्क र निरीक्षणहरू सम्बन्धी आफ्नो सिफारिसका अतिरिक्त, फेयर स्क्वायरले नेपाली अधिकारीहरूलाई इजाजत प्राप्त श्रमिक भर्नाकर्ताहरूलाई आफ्ना इजाजत नभएका कुनै पनि साझेदार तथा बिचौलियाहरूको कामको लागि उत्तरदायी बनाउने गरि तत्काल नयाँ कानुन जारी गर्न सिफारिस गरेको छ, र खाडी मुलुकमा कामदार पठाउने अन्य उत्पत्ति मुलुकहरूसँग शोषण गर्ने रोजगारदाताहरूको पहिचान गर्नको निम्ति सहकार्य तथा समन्वय गर्न सिफारिस गरेकोछ । प्रतिवेदनले नेपालले संयुक्त अरब इमिरेट्स् (युएई) र मलेसिया लगायतका गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूसँग द्विपक्षीय सम्झौताको लागि वार्ता गर्दा कामदारहरूको संरक्षणलाई दिएको प्राथमिकता, र भर्ना प्रक्रियामा पारदर्शिता बढाउने र करार प्रतिस्थापन जस्ता ठगीका अभ्यासहरूलाई निराकरण गर्ने लक्ष्यले गरिएका प्राविधिक पहलहरू लगायत नेपालले गरेका  विविध प्रयासहरूको प्रशंसा गरेको छ ।

‘वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने नेपाली आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले आफ्नो परिवार  र नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रलाई सघाउन ठुलो त्याग गरेका हुन्छन्, र तिनीहरूलाई न्यायोचित भर्नाको सुनिश्चितता सहित नेपाल राज्यले प्रदान गर्न सक्ने सबै संरक्षण प्रदान गर्नुपर्दछ । यस प्रतिवेदनले सो सम्बन्धमा कहाँ कहाँ प्रगति भएका छन् भन्ने कुरा उल्लेख गरेको छ, तर यसको प्रमुख योगदान चाहिँ भर्ना शुल्कको खारेजीबाट सुरु गरेर सरकारले भर्ना प्रक्रियामा हुने प्रणालीगत ठगीलाई अन्त्य गर्नको लागि लिनुपर्ने निश्चित कदमहरूको रूपरेखा प्रदान गर्नु हो,’ फेयर स्क्वायरका नेपालस्थित अनुसन्धानकर्ता तथा ल्याप्सोज संस्थामा आवद्द मानव अधिकार कानुन व्यवसायी अनुराग देवकोटाले बताए ।

नेपालमा सन् २०१५ मा लागू गरिएको ‘फ्रि भिसा, फ्रि टिकट’ नीतिले खाडी मुलुक र मलेसिया जाने कामदारहरूबाट लिन पाउने अधिकतम शुल्क रु १०,००० तोकेको छ । नेपालले यसलाई ‘शुन्य लागत’को भर्ना भन्ने गरेको छ, तर यथार्थमा आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले कानुनी सिमा भन्दा अत्यन्त धेरै तिर्ने गरेका छन् । रु १,६०,००० सम्म तिर्नु पनि असामान्य होइन । सन् २०१९ मा, सर्वोच्च अदालतले सरकारलाई ‘फ्रि भिसा, फ्रि टिकट’ नीतिको प्रभावकारी कार्यान्वयन गर्ने आदेश दियो । भर्ना शुल्कलाई पूरै खारेज नगर्दा एजेन्सीहरूलाई कानुनी सिमा भन्दा अत्याधिक धेरै लिन मिल्ने गरि एक किसिमको अन्यौलको क्षेत्र सिर्जना गरेको छ, र ‘शुन्य लागत भर्नामा प्रतिवद्ध एजेन्सीहरूको एक समूहले हालसम्म कुनै पनि कामदार विदेश पठाउन नसकेको यथार्थले यस नीतिको असफलतालाई दर्शाउँछ ।

यस प्रतिवेदनमा उल्लेख गरिएका  कतिपय कामदारहरूले आफूले कानुनी सिमाभन्दा धेरै शुल्क  तिर्न अस्वीकार गर्दा एजेन्टहरूले आफ्नो रोजगारीलाई उक्त  नीतिले नसमेट्ने वा तिनका रोजगारदाताले भर्ना सम्बन्धी कुनै पनि खर्च नव्यहोर्ने बताएको उल्लेख गरे । अन्य कतिपय कामदारले आफूले तिरेको रकमको लागि रसिद नपाएको वा रु १०,०००को लागि मात्र रसिद पाएको, वा आफूले तिरेको वास्तविक रकमबारे उजुरी गरेमा स्वदेश फर्काउने धम्की दिएको बताए । कुवेत जानको लागि रु १,१६,००० जुटाउन सुन र आफ्नो मोटरसाइकल बेचेका एक पुरुष  कामदारले हामीलाई, विदेश यात्राको दिन उनलाई अंग्रेजी भाषामा आफूले रु १०,००० (कानुनले तोकेको अधिकतम रकम) मात्र तिरेको भनी कबुल गरेको भिडियो खिच्न लगाइएको बताउनुभयो ।
अर्कोतिर, भर्ना एजेन्सीहरूले खाडी र मलेसियामा आकर्षक रोजगारीको लागि कामदार पठाउने उत्पत्ति मुलुकहरूबिच अत्यन्त धेरै प्रतिस्पर्धा रहने गरेको र कामदारबाट शुल्क नउठाउने हो भने रोजगारदाताबाट कामदारको माग प्राप्त गर्न नसक्ने बताए । कोभिड–१९ महामारीले यस प्रतिस्पर्धालाई झन् बढाएको छ, र यसले कामदारलाई अझै बढी शुल्क तिनुपर्ने जोखिममा पारेको छ । यस समस्याको सम्बोधन गर्न सन् २०२०मा नेपाल सरकारले ‘कोलम्बो प्रक्रिया जस्ता माध्यमहरूको प्रयोग गरि कामदार पठाउने मुलुकहरू माझ अझै सघन उपाय अपनाउनुपर्ने’ विषय उठायो । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाले कुवेत, कतार र अन्य गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूलाई कामदारको मागपत्र पठाए बापत ‘घुष’ माग्ने अभ्यासलाई निराकरण गर्ने लगायत नैतिक र शुन्य लागत भर्नाको नियमित माग प्रदान गर्नको लागि रोजगारदाताहरूलाई प्रभावकारी रूपमा नियमन गर्नको लागि आह्वान गर्दछ ।

प्रतिवेदनले वैदेशिक रोजगार विभागको अनुसन्धान क्षमता तथा दक्षता नेपालको भर्ना उद्योगमा पहिचान गरिएका ठगीलाई सम्बोधन गर्न आवश्यक स्तरभन्दा कम रहेको विवरण प्रस्तुत गरेको छ । हाल ८०० भन्दा बढी इजाजत प्राप्त एजेन्सीहरू र दशौँ हजार अनौपचारिक सब–एजेन्टहरू रहेको परिवेशमा विभागमा जम्मा चार जना अनुसन्धानकर्ताहरू छन् । वैदेशिक रोजगार विभाग र नेपाल प्रहरी बिच सन् २०२० मा गरिएको सम्झौता पत्र अनुसार कामदारहरूको उजुरीको आधारमा नेपाल प्रहरीले प्रारम्भिक अनुसन्धान गर्न पाउने र दर्ता नभएका भर्नाकर्ताहरूलाई पूर्ण छानबीनको दायरामा ल्याउने प्रावधान भएकाले यसले केही हदसम्म विभागमा रहेको क्षमता अभावको समस्यालाई सम्बोधन गर्न सक्छ, र यसले गर्दा विभाग भित्रको भ्रष्टाचारको अनुसन्धान र अभियोजनको लागि छुट्याइएको स्रोत पनि वृद्धि हुन्छ । यस प्रतिवेदनले शोषण र अन्य दुव्र्यवहार सामना गरिरहेका आप्रवासी कामदारहरूलाई सहयोग गर्न नेपाल सरकारलाई खाडीमा रहेका आफ्ना कुटनीतिक नियोगहरूको क्षमता पनि उल्लेख्य रूपमा  वृद्धि गर्न सिफारिस गरेको छ । श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक सुरक्षा मन्त्रालयले प्रमुख गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूमा रहेको कुटनीतिक नियोगका क्षमता ‘अपर्याप्त’ रहेको कुरा स्वीकार गरेको छ ।

‘नेपालले वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा गएका आफ्ना आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले पठाएको विप्रेषणबाट ठुलो रकम आर्जन गर्दछ, तर  यी कामदारको संरक्षण गर्ने जिम्मा पाएका मन्त्रालयहरूमा पर्याप्त तथा सुप्रशिक्षित कर्मचारी भएको सुनिश्चित गर्न  ज्यादै कम  स्रोत विनियोजन गरिएको छ । अर्थतन्त्र र मानव अधिकार दुवैको दृष्टिकोणले यो अनुपयुक्त नीति हो,’ अनुराग देवकोटाले भने ।

पृष्ठभूमि
विप्रेषणले कुल ग्रार्हस्थ उत्पादनको झण्डै एक तिहाइ हिस्सा ओगट्ने मुलुक नेपाल संसार भरमै सबै भन्दा धेरै विप्रेषण प्राप्त गर्ने मुलुक मध्येको एक हो ।

यस प्रतिवेदनका निचोड तथा  सिफारिसहरू आप्रवासी कामदारको अधिकारको क्षेत्रमा काम गर्ने गैरसरकारी संस्थाहरू, ट्रेड युनियनका प्रतिनिधिहरू, प्राज्ञहरू, थिंक ट्यांक वा बुद्धिजीवि संगठनहरू, पत्रकारहरू, कानुन व्यवसायीहरू, भर्नाकर्ता एजेन्सीहरू, र  अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय श्रम संगठन (आइ.एल.ओ.) र अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय आप्रवासन संगठन (आइओएम)जस्ता अन्तरसरकारी निकायहरूका  प्रतिनिधिहरू लगायत नेपालमा गैरस्थलगत रूपमा  वा प्रत्यक्षरूपमा विविध सरोकारवालाहरू  र विज्ञहरूसँग गरिएका १३३ ओटा गहन अन्तर्वार्ताहरूमा आधारित छन् । वैदेशिक रोजगार विभाग; श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक  सुरक्षा मन्त्रालय; र कानुन, न्याय तथा संसदीय मामिला मन्त्रलायका बहालवाला  र भूतपूर्व गरि थुप्रै वरिष्ठ अधिकारीहरूसँग अन्तर्वार्ता गरिएको थियो । हामीले खाडी मुलुकमा रहेका नेपाली नियोगका कुटनीतिज्ञहरूसँग पनि कुरा गर्यौँ । हामीले श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक सुरक्षा मन्त्रालयले नेपालको आप्रवासी श्रमिक सम्बन्धी प्रशासनिक व्यवस्थाको विस्तृत र पारदर्शी मूल्यांकन गरि प्रकाशन गरेको श्रम आप्रवासन प्रतिवेदन २०२०बाट सन्दर्भ लिएर पनि लाभ लियौँ ।

पाँच करिडोर परियोजनामा समावेश भएका अन्य देशहरूमा क्यानाडा, कुवेत, मेक्सिको, म्यान्मार, फिलिपिन्स्, कतार, ताइवान र थाइल्याण्ड पर्दछन् ।

नेपाली भाषामा निचोडको सारांश सहित प्रतिवेदनको पूर्ण पाठ https://fivecorridorsproject.org मा उपलब्ध छ ।

थप टिप्पणीको लागि कृपया अनुराग देवकोटाला[email protected]  मा वा +९७७-९८५११९५९४९ मा सम्पर्क गर्नुहोस् ।

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Launch of Five Corridors Project

Multi-country study urges wealthy states to take the strain to ensure fair recruitment of migrant workers and prevent abuse

“Five Corridors” Report into recruitment practices in nine countries urges destination states to do more to incentivize fair recruitment, and calls for the end of tied visa systems and discriminatory exclusions from labour protections. Origin states should fully enforce “zero fee” policies for their nationals.

Governments around the world, and particularly governments that host significant numbers of migrant workers, need to take more concerted action to prevent systematic abuses in transnational recruitment processes, a major research study said today. The FairSquare Five Corridors report, based on research in nine countries and five migration corridors, urged states to focus their resources on a series of key priority issues, and urged destination states to assume the burden of incentivizing fair recruitment models.

The Five Corridors project examined the problems faced by low-wage workers in international recruitment processes, as migration for work has increasingly become temporary or “circular”, with workers returning to their origin countries at the end of their contracts. Exploitation in these recruitment processes, which have spawned a global industry of private recruitment agencies to furnish complex labour supply chains, leave many millions of migrant workers around the world acutely vulnerable to serious human rights abuses, including the charging of exorbitant fees in exchange for jobs and deception over terms and conditions.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The Five Corridors project focused on five labour migration corridors: Myanmar to Thailand; Nepal to Kuwait; Nepal to Qatar; Philippines to Taiwan; and Mexico to Canada.

Ensuring employers, not workers, pay the costs of recruitment
Drawing on more than 300 in-depth interviews with workers, government officials, businesses and activists, the report urges destination states to take more seriously their responsibility as regulators, and ensure that employers pay the full cost of migrant workers’ recruitment. In many countries, businesses expect to be able to hire migrant workers at little or no cost, knowing that the demand for better paid jobs is so high that workers will accept taking on large debts in order to finance their migration, leaving them at greater risk of forced labour and other abuse. In Thailand, Qatar and Taiwan, researchers found that some employers even charge recruitment agencies “kickback” bribes before they allow them to recruit on their behalf.

“Governments have gone to great lengths to show their commitment to tackling human trafficking and forced labour, yet the abusive recruitment processes that fuel exploitation continue,” said Ambassador (retd) Luis C.deBaca, Five Corridors Project senior adviser, who previously coordinated the US government’s global anti-trafficking work. “To date, the complexity of transnational recruitment has made it easy to dodge responsibility — this research fills that critical gap by using a wealth of evidence to chart a path forward for governments to confront this serious issue.”

Tied visas and exclusion from core labour protections
The report also finds that tied visas, which generally restrict migrant workers to a single employer and link their immigration status to their employment, play a major role in undermining fair recruitment, as they leave workers less able to complain or switch jobs in the event of fraud or abuse. All five destination countries in the study operate some form of tied visas. A worker from Myanmar told us his inability to switch jobs in Thailand was “like you are tied up and beaten up”, while a Mexican agricultural worker in Canada said the system “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

Migrant workers working in domestic work, agriculture, fishing are often also excluded from labour laws, meaning they have little protection against being made to work extreme hours, fewer rights to breaks and days off, and may be unable to join trade unions.

“The combined effect of restrictive tied visa systems, leaving workers at risk of losing their immigration status if they complain, with blanket exemptions from basic protections, is to hugely undermine efforts at ensuring workers’ recruitment is genuinely fair,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

The report also calls on origin states, for their parts, to enforce full prohibitions on worker payment of recruitment fees, and urges all states to put in place more effective grievance systems for migrant workers, and to coordinate better across corridors to prevent abuse, including through considering government-government recruitment programmes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the drivers of migrant workers’ exploitation. The UN labour agency (ILO) has warned that exploitative recruitment fees are likely to increase in light of the contraction of many economies. While some migrant workers have been celebrated as “key workers”, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and been stranded in their host countries, often facing stigma and demonisation. In Kuwait, high-profile celebrities blamed migrant workers for the pandemic’s impact on the country, with one calling for them to be “thrown into the desert”, while in Thailand the Prime Minister fuelled xenophobia by blaming migrant workers for spreading the virus and saying they had “brought much grief”.

Background
Recent years have seen an expansion of efforts to develop consensus on the regulatory steps required to ensure fair recruitment. These have been led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), complemented by the efforts of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), which stewarded the development of the Dhaka Principles. In 2018, the Global Compact on Migration saw UN member states making a series of commitments on fair recruitment.

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings is available at the dedicated Five Corridors website. In addition to the main report, FairSquare have published separate, in-depth reports for the migration corridors under study. A launch event for the project’s findings is being held on 7 July 2021, in partnership with the IHRB.

For more information please contact James Lynch or Nick McGeehan.

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Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment – launch event

Event: Launch of Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment

FairSquare and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) are holding a joint event on Wednesday 7 July 2021, to discuss the fair recruitment of migrant workers. “Destination, Destination, Destination”: What governments can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment will take place on the day FairSquare publishes its Five Corridors Project, a major research study.

REGISTER TO ATTEND THE EVENT (IHRB SITE)

The Five Corridors Project, which FairSquare has been working on since late 2019, aims to enhance understanding of how governments can strengthen regulatory and enforcement mechanisms to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices, resulting in more positive outcomes for workers. More than 300 workers, recruiters, employers, govt officials, activists and other experts have been interviewed as part of the study into the recruitment of migrant workers in five corridors:

1. Myanmar to Thailand 
2. Nepal to Kuwait 
3. Nepal to Qatar
4. Philippines to Taiwan 
5. Mexico to Canada

The study has examined the steps taken by governments to ensure the human rights of migrant workers in the recruitment process, against 44 common indicators based largely on the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment.

Based on this research, the Five Corridors Project makes a set of key recommendations to destination and origin states, highlighting priority actions to prevent fraud and exploitation in migration and employment. Detailed reports into each corridor will also be made available on the dedicated Five Corridors website, which will go live on 7 July.

FairSquare has delivered the Five Corridors Project with the support of the Open Society FoundationsHumanity United and Porticus.

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Qatar: Kenyan Labour Rights Activist in Solitary Confinement

Qatar: Kenyan Labour Rights Activist in Solitary Confinement

The Qatari authorities must immediately reveal the whereabouts of Kenyan labour rights activist Malcolm Bidali, five human rights and labour rights organizations said today. More than three weeks after Mr. Bidali was forcibly disappeared by state security services, authorities are still refusing to reveal his whereabouts or explain why he has been detained. In a phone call to his mother on May 20, Mr. Bidali said he was being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and that he had no access to a lawyer.

Migrant-Rights.org, FairSquare, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre are urging the Qatari authorities to immediately release Mr. Bidali, who appears to have been detained for the peaceful exercise of his human rights. They said:

“The Qatari authorities have not responded to repeated appeals for information, made by Malcom Bidali’s mother and by our organizations. Weeks after he was taken from his home, Mr. Bidali’s whereabouts remains a mystery. There is no evidence that he is being detained for anything other than his legitimate human rights work – for exercising his freedom of expression, and for shining a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.

“If the authorities do have credible evidence that Mr. Bidali has committed an internationally recognizable crime, he must be brought before a judge to be charged and given a fair trial. Otherwise, he must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Phishing attack
Malcolm Bidali tweets about labour abuses in Qatar using a pseudonym. On April 26, a Twitter user tagged Mr. Bidali in a tweet containing a graphic which Human Rights Watch had used for an August 2020 report about wage abuse in Qatar. The tweet also contained what appeared to be a YouTube link to a Human Rights Watch publication.

However, according to Amnesty International’s analysis, the link led to a suspicious URL capable of recording the IP address and other data about the person who clicked on it. This is a social engineering tactic known as phishing, and may have been used to identify or locate Mr. Bidali.

State security forces seized Mr. Bidali from his home on May 4, barely a week after the phishing attack.
“Though we cannot confirm who was responsible for the phishing attack on Malcolm Bidali, his arrest shortly afterwards suggests he was targeted for his activism,” the organizations said.

“Malcolm Bidali is a rare voice speaking out against the abuse of migrant workers in Qatar, and his forcible disappearance will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. When one of the only workers who has spoken publicly in defence of migrants’ rights in Qatar is targeted like this, it creates a climate of fear and serves as a warning to other activists.”

On May 12, Qatari authorities acknowledged that Malcolm Bidali was in their custody, but refused to say where he was being held or why. Until Malcolm Bidali’s location is revealed, and until he is either taken before a court to face recognizable charges or is released, his detention continues to constitute an enforced disappearance.

On May 20, Qatari state security services allowed Mr. Bidali to call his mother, Maggie Turner, following an intervention by the Kenyan Ambassador in Qatar. In the 10-minute phone call, Bidali assured his mother that he had not been harmed, but was unable to tell her where he was being held or why. He also said that two guards were present as he made the call.

“While it is a huge relief to know that Malcolm is alive, the lack of information is hard to bear,” Maggie Turner said.
“The fact that he is in solitary confinement is extremely concerning.”

Migrant-Rights.org, FairSquare, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre said:

“Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law, and prolonged solitary confinement can constitute torture. We reiterate our call on the Qatari authorities to immediately reveal the whereabouts of Malcolm Bidali, remove him from solitary confinement, and grant him access to an independent lawyer.”

Background Information
Malcolm Bidali, a 28-year-old Kenyan national, is a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms. A week before his arrest, he gave a presentation to a large group of civil society organizations and trade unions about his experiences working in Qatar.

On May 4 Qatar’s security services took Bidali from his living quarters for questioning. On May 12, Qatari authorities confirmed that he was in custody, but refused to disclose his location. Authorities have permitted Bidali consular access, and allowed him to call his mother briefly on May 20. The authorities have brought no charges against him, and continued to deny him access to legal representation.

An enforced disappearance is a crime under international law, which, according to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, occurs when any person is arrested or otherwise detained by agents of the state, “followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place(s) such a person outside the protection of the law.”

Under international law, as reflected in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), solitary confinement can be used “only in exceptional cases as a last resort, for as short a time as possible”. Further, as the UN special rapporteur on torture described in 2020, prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 consecutive days is considered a form of torture.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Qatar is obligated to ensure that everyone has the right to due process, and that no one is arbitrarily detained or subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Furthermore, under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, governments must actively protect human rights defenders from harm. They have an obligation to put in place social and legal structures to create environments that are safe and supportive for human rights defenders to carry out their work.

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