Qatar Begins Human-Trafficking Awareness Campaign

10 March 2009

The Gulf state of Qatar has vowed to tackle the problem of human trafficking. A new anti-trafficking campaign began after a U.S. State Department report claimed Qatar was a destination country for traffickers.

Qatar has launched a human trafficking awareness campaign to highlight the threat of forced labor and abuse to the country's legion of foreign workers.

A member of the National Human Right Committee, Mohammad Fouad, says the campaign hopes to reach migrant workers and local Qataris.

"We make hotline for anyone, any people live in Qatar if he feels any form of trafficking against him. We have program on Qatar radio and two programs on Qatar TV," said Fouad. "Every person in Qatar must know what is the meaning of trafficking in people."

Qatar's migrant workforce makes up roughly 80 percent of the country's population. Many of those people from South Asia or the Philippines work as laborers. But some of them work for dubious companies that bring them into the country and force them to work for nothing in order to pay off their flights and visas.

The National Human Rights Committee says it plans to hold a meeting with the diplomatic missions whose countries export workers to Qatar to discuss stopping the practice of forced labor.

A recent human-trafficking report from the U.S. State Department criticized Qatar's human rights record. In the Trafficking in Persons report, it said the Gulf state was a destination country with widespread trafficking abuses, particularly forced laborers from Asia who are subject to restrictions on movement, as well as physical and sexual abuse.

The chairman of Qatar's Human Rights Committee dismissed the reports findings, saying it was "full of wrong information" and added it ignored the progress made by Qatar on its human-rights record.

Foaud says a lot has changed during the past couple of years in Qatar.

"We work maybe two years in trafficking in person, you must know, now if anyone sees the situation in Qatar, he find this situation is different now," he said.

On top of the anti-trafficking campaign, Qatar is moving towards legal reform with a law drafted to protect the rights of domestic servants, one of the most vulnerable migrant workers' groups. The Human Rights Committee says it plans to bring in stiffer punishments for those found guilty of sexual or physical abuse of workers in order to discourage the crime.