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Airport misery for Lankan workers in Qatar

QATAR: Some companies continue to flout Labour Department diktats by failing to pick up their newly-recruited employees from the airport on time, it is learnt.

Workers who arrive at the Doha airport are often received by the representatives of their employers and transported to their accommodation but there have been cases where the new arrivals have to wait for over 12 hours before they are taken to their camps.

After the problem had become endemic, the Labour Department at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had issued strict warnings to local employers to collect their workers immediately on their arrival at the airport, failing which they would be subjected to penalties.

However, small groups of workers are still found to be "stranded" at the airport's arrival lounge, community sources said.

A man who went to the airport a couple of days ago to collect his daughter told Gulf Times he had found a group of over half a dozen of Nepali workers sleeping on the bare floor of the arrival lounge.

"When I inquired, I was told that they have been waiting for over 10 hours for their sponsor or his representative to arrive. They had no money with them.

"They had not eaten since they landed in Qatar. The men neither had any contact number of their employer nor did they speak any language other than their mother tongue."

In most of the cases, the workers who mostly come from Asian countries do not carry any money with them as they have been told in their home countries by recruiting agents that representatives of their employers would be waiting to receive them at the Doha airport.

"So when they fail to meet a representative of their employer, they are left in the lurch. With no money and nobody to turn to, these workers sometimes have to spend long hours at the airport without even drinking water," a social worker said.

"When I wanted to buy some food for a group of men found stranded at the airport, I realised that the eateries on the premises charge five-star rates and the items on the menu were simply out of the common man's reach," he said. "While continuing to be strict with the companies, the authorities can also think of opening an outlet from where ordinary people can buy food," he suggested.

Though not common, there have been cases where Asian workers had waited up to three days or more before they were able to contact their sponsors.

Many of the workers, particularly those who come from countries like Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam, do not speak Arabic or English. They are also not familiar with any of the languages spoken by the major expatriate communities in Qatar.

In one such case, a Nepali driver was able to find his sponsor with the help of his country's embassy after he had spent 72 hours at the airport. There have also been cases of housemaids arriving from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India waiting for long hours at the arrival lounge before they are taken to their sponsor's homes.

According to sources, the problem rested with all the parties involved in the process of recruiting foreign workers.

"Once the agents in the originating countries collected their fees and put the workers on a Doha-bound flight, they think their responsibilities are over," a source said.

"They sometimes even fail to provide the recruits with the contact number of their sponsors in Qatar. They also fail to notify the potential employers in advance about the arrival of the new employees."

According to a worker at the airport, many of the labourers who arrive at night after eight are collected the next day.

Gulf Times

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