QATAR: Trafficking in persons report 2008

Qatar is a destination for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, Thailand, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and China voluntarily travel to Qatar as laborers and domestic servants, but some subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude. These conditions include bonded labor; job switching; withholding of pay; charging workers for benefits for which the employer is responsible; restrictions on freedom of movement, including the confiscation of passports and travel documents and the withholding of exit permits; arbitrary detention; threats of legal action and deportation; false charges; and physical, mental and sexual abuse. Nepali and Indian men are reportedly recruited for work in Qatar as domestic servants, but are then coerced or forced into labor in Saudi Arabia as farm workers. Qatar is also a destination for women from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, India, Africa, and Eastern Europe for prostitution, but it is unknown how many are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.


The Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Provisions of the Sponsorship Law condone forced labor activities and slave-like conditions. In addition, Qatar failed to enforce criminal laws against traffickers, lacks an effective victim identification mechanism to identify and protect victims, continues to detain and deport the large majority of victims rather than providing them with protection, and sometimes penalized workers who complained about working conditions or non-payment of wages.


Recommendations for Qatar: Significantly increase criminal law enforcement efforts against abusive employers and those who force women into commercial sexual exploitation, including prosecutions, convictions, and prison sentences; expand and consistently apply a formal mechanism to distinguish victims of trafficking among those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution; enact legal reforms to prohibit all forms of trafficking, including forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and the use of force, fraud, or coercion in the recruitment process; and abolish or significantly amend sponsorship regulations that condone forced labor activities and slave-like conditions.


The Government of Qatar made little progress in investigating trafficking offenses or punishing trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Qatar does not prohibit all acts of trafficking, but it criminalizes slavery under Section 321 and forced labor under Section 322 of its Criminal Law. The prescribed penalty for forced labor—up to six months’ imprisonment—is not sufficiently stringent, however. Article 297 prohibits the forced or coerced prostitution of a minor below age 16; the prescribed penalty is up to 15 years’ imprisonment. In addition, the government banned the use of child camel jockeys in 2005, prescribing a penalty of three to 10 years’ imprisonment. To increase awareness of these laws, a government committee trained police, prosecutors, judges and legal educators. Nonetheless, restrictive sponsorship regulations and common practices such as withholding of workers’ passports contribute to forced labor and slave-like conditions in the country. Qatar provided evidence of investigating only one case of fraudulent recruitment, and did not report any criminal prosecutions, convictions, or sentences for trafficking, despite a serious and significant problem of trafficking for forced labor. Similarly, the government failed to report any law enforcement efforts against trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.


Qatar failed to adequately protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government incorporated anti-trafficking in persons training into basic and continuing curriculum at the police academy, including training on dealing with victims of trafficking. Nonetheless, evidence indicates that during the last year authorities made only limited attempts to systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable people, such as foreign workers awaiting deportation and women arrested for prostitution, and that as a result, victims are often punished and automatically deported without being offered protection. The Ministry of Interior recently agreed to send foreign domestic workers arrested for illegal immigration to the government shelter. Nonetheless, Qatar commonly fines and detains trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as immigration violations and running away from their sponsors, without determining the underlying causes. Though the waiting period is reportedly shorter than before, some victims remain in deportation centers for years pending resolution of their cases, permission from their sponsors to leave the country, or in retaliation for seeking to recover unpaid wages or request a new sponsor. Despite operating a shelter for victims of trafficking, the government protected only 14 victims during the reporting period. Victims often prefer to seek shelter in their embassies, but the embassies do not have sufficient resources or host government permission to operate shelters. The government forcibly shut down at least one independent shelter and deported the resident victims. Two of the victims died awaiting deportation. The government did not routinely encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations or offer victims alternatives to deportation to countries in which they may face retribution.


Qatar made limited efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The government produced informational brochures in several targeted languages, posters, and radio and TV commercials as part of its “No to Trafficking” public awareness campaign. The government, however, did not take any reported measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Similarly, Qatar did not undertake any known public awareness campaigns targeting citizens traveling to known child sex tourism destinations abroad. Qatar has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.



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