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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Qatar Labourers

The Gulf Times reported today that the blocking of large number of Asian Labourers from entering souqs caused tempers to flare yesterday. 

It is common to see labourers blocked from entering souqs and malls in Doha. I've been in Souq Waqif and in Villagio and seen men being turned away for no apparent reason other than they looked poor and Asian. 

It is a tough life for labourers here. They often live in a labour camp, sharing a room with six or more other men or sleeping on the roof to escape the heat when the air conditioners are not working or are not turned on (some labour camps only turn them on for three months of the year). 

Many also see no or negative financial benefit, after borrowing money to pay agents to come here, often with unrealistic expectations of what they can earn. Interest rates can be sky high, threats can be made against their families if the loans are not repaid and it is not unknown for labourers to commit suicide to escape the situation. 

With Friday often the only day off for these workers, many head to the souqs - or to the malls, where at least they can enjoy the cool. However, they are often turned away, perhaps from fear they will harass women. Other single men of different races, or those who are obviously not poor, have no problem entering. 

It seems that those who are building the backbone of the richest country in the world are those who are least rewarded.