Despite the power of kafala and the pitifully small number of inspectors employed to check the safety of workers, there are some laws that supposedly protect workers. There are laws on the number of hours allowed to be worked in the hottest months (ignored), on passport confiscation (ignored), on overcrowding in labour camps (ignored) and on contractual pay.

The problem is that workers are so powerless, that even if they know their rights and how to access the legal system, they are still completely at the mercy of their bosses. The one Qatari law that is gleefully implemented by employers is the one stopping workers forming any kind of representative committee, up to and including trade unions.

This leaves workers completely unable to speak up for themselves. Criminal acts and deadly construction practises go completely unpunished, because the government’s only chance to catch any of these abuses is to stumble upon them – and yet inspectors only respond to specific complaints!

If workers were allowed to organise their own defence – sharing knowledge on their rights, protecting each other from persecution from employers, clubbing together to pay legal fees – Qatar would actually be able to live up to its promises to improve their lives. Without workers having the power to tell the truth about the risks they face on a daily basis, those promises are worthless.

Other workers issues