Qatar - A research by Qatar University's (QU) College of Law has shed light at safeguarding the rights of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf countries. Led by principal investigator Dr Faisal Misfer al-Hababi, associate dean for research and graduate studies, and Rania Belkacem al-Mazni, research assistant, this study delves into the complexities of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s( GCC) labour laws and their alignment with international human rights standards.
The research also examines the potential for a Gulf programme that sets minimum standards and regional mechanisms to protect the rights of migrant workers, fostering a better relationship between citizens and expatriate labourers while ensuring the stability and growth of the GCC economies.
The research highlighted a major issue faced by expatriate workers in the region, the sponsorship system. This system grants significant power to employers, requiring workers to seek approval before changing jobs, effectively binding them to their current employers. Consequently, workers have faced long working hours, harsh conditions, and low wages, with limited protection of their fundamental rights. However, Qatar has taken a bold step towards addressing this problem by abolishing the sponsorship system and implementing new rules to safeguard workers' rights.
Dr al-Hababi explained: “The Gulf Co-operation Council countries have been grappling with the challenge of balancing the protection of migrant workers' rights with their own demographic and societal considerations. It is crucial to create a stable legal framework that ensures the well-being and dignity of all people, both citizens and migrant workers alike.”
The research study took a comprehensive legal review of labour laws in the GCC countries and assessed their compliance with international human rights law, particularly the Declaration of Human Rights of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the year 2015.
The findings emphasise the need for a regional framework that sets minimum standards and regional mechanisms to protect migrant workers' rights.
Al-Mazni elaborated, “By establishing a Gulf programme with uniform standards, participating countries will be bound to offer protection to workers at the national level. This regional approach will not only enhance the rights of migrant workers but also strengthen the labour markets in the GCC countries, potentially attracting more capital and skilled labour.”
The research project's significance extended beyond mere legal implications. By ensuring the protection of migrant workers' rights, the GCC countries can fortify their national security and maintain the stability of their societal fabric and identity. This fosters a harmonious relationship between citizens and expatriate laborers, promoting social cohesion and inclusivity.
As the research project concluded, the focus is now on further refining the GCC labour laws to align them with international human rights standards. By adopting a comprehensive approach to protecting workers' rights, the GCC countries can set a commendable example for the rest of the world.
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