The government sustained robust efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The NCCHT, which included representatives of both government offices and NGOs, commenced regular meetings in 2017 and organized and hosted an international anti-trafficking conference in partnership with INTERPOL. The NCCHT began re-drafting its national strategy to combat trafficking, which spanned 2017-2022 and prioritized prevention, protection, judicial pursuits, and regional and international cooperation. The government did not report its financial allocation toward revision and implementation of the strategy; it allocated approximately 7.2 million Qatari riyal ($1.98 million) for such activity during the previous reporting year. The government-funded Aman Center continued to promote awareness campaigns on various forms of abuse, including trafficking, and outlined where to receive help; these campaigns targeted women, domestic workers, and exploitative employers. The Slavery Museum in Doha—part of a museum consortium chaired by the Emir’s mother—enhanced trafficking knowledge among the local population. The government maintained its publication of manuals for expatriates in Arabic, English, and several source country languages on proactive victim identification, domestic worker rights, and ways to combat trafficking in Qatar. It continued to publish and disseminate “worker rights” pamphlets in English, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, and Tagalog that contained relevant articles from the labor and sponsorship laws. Officials began to include in every domestic worker’s passport a sticker with a number for the complaint hotline and that of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA); the government did not report how many calls either line received during the reporting year. The MADLSA and MOI held lectures and town halls, and supported media publications, to explain Qatar’s labor system reforms and solicit feedback from labor sending country representatives; these activities targeted companies, government entities, foreign embassies, the press, and migrant worker communities. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not regularly provide anti-trafficking training for its international peacekeepers or diplomatic personnel.
In 2017, a total of 408 labor inspectors conducted more than 19,000 inspections of recruitment agencies resulting in roughly 3,605 warnings, 1,210 violation reports and various penalties, 78 company blacklistings, cancelation of nine licenses for recruitment agencies operating in Qatar, and the revocation of one license—compared to 24 license revocations in 2016—that MADLSA’s routine inspection and monitoring found to be noncompliant with the labor law; however, it did not report if it referred any companies, or their owners or staff, for further prosecution or whether it achieved any convictions for those suspected of illegal recruitment activities. The government continued its rollout of the WPS, which requires employers to pay workers electronically and increases penalties for violating the labor code. Officials blacklisted more than 18,000 companies for violating the WPS and roughly 3,400 for labor law contraventions, exceeding the blacklisting of 5,500 companies and 2,000 individuals in the previous reporting period. The WPS detected and, as a result, officials blocked from future transactions, more than 27,000 companies for labor violations, a notable increase from just 600 during the previous reporting period; however, it remained unclear whether the system flagged any potential trafficking cases for criminal investigation. During the reporting period, the government signed landmark agreements with a foreign government and the ILO to strengthen anti-trafficking operating capacity and generate sustainable labor reform efforts throughout Qatar. Committing itself to the ILO official agreement, the government allocated workplace space and funding for a 17-person staffed office to solely oversee the implementation of the activities contained therein. The government continued to address recruitment issues and worker rights through 36 bilateral agreements and five memoranda of understanding with labor-sending countries, and it worked with individual countries to certify vetted labor recruitment offices to reduce fraud or excessive debts that may lead to forced labor conditions. The quasi-governmental Qatar Foundation and the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee published workers mandatory standards documents, which injected workers’ rights into corporate social responsibility to provide contractual incentives to contractors and subcontractors to follow the labor law or risk losing lucrative, multiyear projects.
In 2017, the government advanced implementation of the new e-contract system, espoused by Law No.21 of 2015, which applies to all expatriate workers in Qatar, including those in the domestic sector. During the reporting year, the MOI signed an agreement with a biometric data company to establish 22 service centers in eight primary sending countries constituting 80 percent of Qatar’s total workforce. The government planned these centers to be responsible for signing contracts in local languages, issuing Qatari residence permits, conducting rights awareness training, taking fingerprints, and opening bank accounts for migrant workers, to reduce instances of contract switching and falsified employment agreements. This contract system included standardized language, including in local languages of major labor-sending countries, and online instructional guidance in Arabic and English. On August 16, the Emir signed into law a 2004 Labor Law amendment to establish new LDRCs, which replaced the laborious labor court system that were plagued by inefficiencies, including protracted court proceedings and the imposition of heavy financial burdens on laborers. The LDRCs formally began operation on March 19, 2018. The LDRCs streamlined cases and were mandated by law to reach a decision within three weeks for any contract or labor dispute.