LONDON: The United Nations has highlighted “serious concerns of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals” in Qatar in a damning report that will be presented to the UN human rights council.
The report says there is a “de facto caste system based on national origin” in Qatar, “according to which European, North American, Australian and Arab nationalities systematically enjoy greater human rights protections than south Asian and sub-Saharan African nationalities,” The Guardian reported.
Approximately 2 million migrant workers are employed in Qatar, the vast majority of them low-income laborers from South Asia and East and West Africa.
Although 18,500 are currently building World Cup 2022 stadiums, tens of thousands more are employed on projects linked to the event, including in the construction, hospitality and security sectors, the British newspaper reported.
The UN special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, who wrote the report, said Qatar “needs to do more in the light of the persistent complex challenges that undermine its compliance with its international obligations.”
Low-income workers continue to suffer severe discrimination and exploitation, the report said.
Violations of human rights include unsafe working conditions, racial profiling by police, and denial of access to some public spaces.
Many low-income workers are too afraid to seek justice for labor violations due to the “imbalances rooted in the kafala (sponsorship) system,” and workers who flee abusive employers are deemed to be “absconding,” the report said.
Workers are unable to change jobs without their employer’s permission under the sponsorship system.
Plans to abolish it, announced by Qatari authorities in October 2019, have failed to materialize.
Qatar’s government canceled a visit by the UN special rapporteur on slavery that was scheduled for January, soon after the preliminary findings of the report were published.
FIFA, the international football governing body that awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, failed to acknowledge the racial discrimination described by Achiume in a statement to The Guardian.
FIFA said it is working with its partners toward “an inclusive tournament experience for all and a firm stance against discrimination of any kind.”