The financial district in Doha. Moody’s has changed Qatar’s rating to negative on concerns the stand-off with Arab countries could negatively affect Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The Gulf Association for Rights and Freedoms has appealed to the the offices of both the director-general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, to protect labour rights in Qatar, WAM said in a report from Kuwait.

The association asked the ILO and the UN High Commissioner to intervene urgently after the Qatari government imposed a ban on citizens and expatriates availing of annual leave.

It described the decision as a “grave violation” against citizens and approximately 2.2 million expatriate workers in Qatar, a majority of whom come from Asian countries.

WAM quoted the association’s spokesman, Mohammad Hayef, as saying that the Qatari government not only enforced the ban, but also cancelled all leave requests which, he said, is harming the working conditions of migrant workers.

Hayef said that by preventing people from taking their annual leave, rates of serious and fatal work accidents could increase “due to depriving workers and placing them under harsh working conditions and physical, psychological and social pressures,” he said.

Hayef said this is especially true for workers in companies that are overseeing the construction of projects for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Unjust decision

The association urged the ILO and Commissioner to condemn Qatar’s decision, which “contradicts the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and violates the basic human right to enjoy annual leave,” Hayef said.

An excerpt of the ILO constitution, of which Qatar is a member state, states: “Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, and whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperiled.”

“By this unjust decision, Qatar has violated the most important universal and humanitarian provision in the International Labour Organisation’s constitution,” Hayef said.

Qatar is locked in a crisis with its Arab neighbours over its foreign policy.

Four Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism.

They severed diplomatic relations with Doha and imposed a boycott. They presented 13 demands that Doha must implement to end the crisis.

After meeting in Cairo, the foreign ministers of the four countries expressed regret over Qatar’s negative response to the principles, which reflects Doha’s incomprehension of the gravity of the situation.

“We cannot accept Qatar’s destructive role,” the four ministers said.

Sameh Shukri, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the situation is no longer about accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism as there is solid evidence and witness accounts on Doha’s complicity.

“The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any substance. We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies,” Shukri said reading a statement by the ministers after the Cairo meeting.