Migrant domestic workers employed in Qatar have been pushed to breaking point by extreme overwork, lack of rest, and abusive and degrading treatment, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
The report, which was released on Tuesday, noted that domestic workers in Qatar have their passports confiscated by their employers, making it very difficult to flee the abuse – adding that women have been driven to “breaking point” by being overworked with no time to rest while suffering abusive and degrading misconduct.
Fifteen women said they faced physical abuse at the hands of their employer or employer’s family, out of a total of 105 interviews with women who worked as live-in domestic staff.
Of those interviewed, 90 out of the 105 said they routinely worked more than 14 hours each day, while half worked more than 18 hours per day, almost double the hours their contracts stipulated.
Many of the women said they were never given a single day off during their employment, and 89 of the interviewees said they regularly worked seven days a week. A large majority – 87 – had their passport seized by their employer.
Qatar has introduced a Domestic Workers Law for its 173,000 migrant domestic workers - with limits on working hours, mandatory daily breaks, a weekly day off, and paid holidays. However, many women told Amnesty they were scared to refuse their employers’ endless requests, even when they desperately needed to rest.
Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, said: “Domestic workers told us they were working an average of 16 hours a day, every day of the week, far more than the law allows.
“Almost all had their passport confiscated by their employers, and others described not getting their salaries and being subjected to vicious insults and assaults.
“The overall picture is of a system which continues to allow employers to treat domestic workers not as human beings but as possessions."
Amnesty called on Qatari authorities to take concrete steps to ensure full implementation of the law, establish strict inspection mechanisms, and take serious action against abusive employers.