[ Human Trafficking, Country-by-Country ]

QATAR (Tier 2) – Extracted in part  from the U.S. State Dept 2023 TIP Report

The Government of Qatar does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Qatar remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of suspected traffickers, including investigating an allegedly complicit official.  The government also identified significantly more victims, all of whom it referred to and assisted at its anti-trafficking shelter, which re-opened in October 2022.  Additionally, it linked government systems between the Ministry of Labor (MOL) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) to address employers’ use of false “absconding” charges on workers attempting to change jobs or file complaints, which may have reduced the vulnerability to trafficking for such workers seeking to remove themselves from exploitive situations.  The government also increased the number of specialized prosecutors in the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) to improve its capacity to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking crimes.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Officials continued to routinely use arbitration and administrative penalties to resolve grievances filed by migrant workers, including domestic workers, instead of investigating such cases as possible human trafficking crimes, including cases of severe wage theft or worker-paid recruitment fees, both considered trafficking indicators.  The government’s anti-trafficking shelter did not provide long-term care or allow victims freedom to leave, work during their stay or self-refer; the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT) remained the sole government entity able to officially refer victims to the shelter, which may have limited care victims received and delayed other victims from receiving care in a timely manner.  Authorities also reportedly arrested, detained, and deported potential trafficking victims for immigration and “prostitution” violations, fleeing their employers or sponsors, and at times when seeking remedy for labor violations including wage theft.  Some workers continued to face obstacles when attempting to change jobs without employer permission under the most recent reform to Qatar’s visa sponsorship system.  Finally, the government did not effectively prevent the further exploitation, including trafficking, of vulnerable populations – particularly migrant workers – some of whom were reportedly affected by expedited preparations leading up to the World Cup.

Prioritized Recommendations

Consider labor violations and complaints with trafficking indicators as potential labor trafficking crimes and investigate them accordingly, including cases of non-payment or delayed salaries, passport confiscation, excessive hours, and worker-paid recruitment fees.

Prevent penalization of trafficking victims by screening for trafficking indicators among those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution, those who flee abusive employers and face counter-charges – such as “absconding” and those seeking remedy for labor abuses – especially in cases of severe wage theft.

Draft and finalize formal procedures to proactively identify victims of all forms of trafficking, including Cuban medical professionals and People’s Republic of China (PRC) overseas workers, and institute regular trainings for all officials on how to employ these procedures systematically.

Draft and finalize official victim referral procedures and widely disseminate such procedures to all officials.

Allow other government and non-government entities outside of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT) to refer victims to care.

Equip the specialized trafficking shelter with long-term care options and allow victims freedom of movement and the opportunity to work while in the shelter.

Ensure the Wage Protection System (WPS) covers all companies and individuals, including domestic workers, and holds accountable violators with deterrent penalties, and ensure officials screen all wage theft cases for other trafficking indicators.

Increase efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, particularly labor trafficking crimes, and to convict and punish traffickers under the 2011 anti-trafficking law, rather than other criminal laws, when applicable.

Expand training on the application of the anti-trafficking law to judicial authorities to ensure courts do not drop trafficking charges against defendants, when applicable.

Continue to implement reforms to the sponsorship system by streamlining transfer procedures and disseminate clear guidance on the legal requirements to change jobs to mitigate the burden on workers.

Prohibit employers from filing “absconding” charges or cancelling residency permits in retaliation for workers utilizing these reforms and hold non-compliant employers accountable with adequate penalties.

Increase capacity of Labor Dispute Resolution Committees (LDRCs) to refer suspected trafficking cases for criminal investigative proceedings and ensure verdicts rendered by the committee can be enforced without workers filing a civil court case.