(Beirut) – Qatari authorities should ensure that migrant workers receive adequate protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, a coalition of 16 nongovernmental organizations and trade unions said in a letter on March 31, 2020 to Qatar’s prime minister and interior minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani. The groups include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Migrant-Rights.org.
While acknowledging the positive steps taken to protect migrant workers infected and at-risk of infection by COVID-19, the coalition urged the authorities to supplement these with further actions that protect public health and are consistent with fundamental human rights, including the principle of non-discrimination.
Qatari authorities should, among other recommendations, ensure that all migrant workers including undocumented workers, quarantined or otherwise, have access to testing and get appropriate medical treatment, the groups said.
They should ensure that migrant workers who are unable to work, either due to preventive quarantine or testing positive for COVID-19, continue to receive wages; provide public information to ensure that migrant workers, including domestic workers, do not face discrimination or stigma in relation to the COVID-19 virus; and in light of their acute vulnerability, ensure that domestic workers have access to timely and adequate protective measures and health care.
The coalition will send similar letters to other Gulf Cooperation Council States with similarly large vulnerable migrant worker populations, but where, for many states, there is less transparency on how the issue is affecting migrant workers.
“Qatar has made promising commitments to support migrant workers during this unprecedented crisis, including earmarking funds to cover quarantined migrant workers’ wages, and setting up a hotline for grievances,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Now, more than ever, such promises need to be implemented and rights of migrant workers – who helped build Qatar’s economy and cared for its families – should be protected.”