Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Qatar: situation of migrant workers

Delivered in Plenary - 21 November 2013

Mr President

There has been controversy over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar in recent months, triggered by revelations about the poor working conditions of those helping to construct the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. It is right that these allegations should be treated seriously by the international community and that appeals for improved conditions should be made to the Qatari Government. Certainly my Group, the ECR, condemns the unlawful deaths of any migrant worker and sends condolences to the bereaved families.

I therefore welcome the moves by the authorities to investigate these serious allegations, to increase the number of labour inspectors and to blacklist companies responsible for any such abuses. It is also heartening that the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has committed itself to ethical recruitment and treatment of migrant workers involved in the World Cup preparations.

Nevertheless, I find it regrettable that the joint EP resolution condemns the Qatari Government to the extent it does, and makes demands that are both too proscriptive and highly unlikely to be met by any Gulf State. It is incredibly difficult to regulate a labour market which is 90% composed of migrant workers. We must work with the Qataris constructively rather than censoriously.

Lastly, as a friend of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, I am increasingly concerned over credible reports that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been supplying arms and funds to hard-line groups, initially in Libya with severe consequences in the Sahel region and, more recently, arming Jihadi rebels, such as Al Nusra and ISIL, in the Syrian conflict. These groups are allegedly committing terrible atrocities and war crimes against Christians and other Alawite civilian minorities, as well as against prisoners of war.