Belgium to train labour inspectors in Qatar

In an attempt to address the heavily criticised working conditions in Qatar, Belgium will start training labour inspectors in the Arab country, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure reports on Saturday. Qatar contacted Belgium in early 2022 to set up cooperation to improve the monitoring of working conditions. Belgian trainers may leave for Doha as early as next year.

Since Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010, the country has drawn intense criticism for the conditions of migrant workers constructing World Cup infrastructure. Amnesty International reported on abuses as early as 2016 and accused Qatar of using forced labour at the site of its flagship World Cup stadium. In 2021, the Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since it won the right to host the event.

Since 2017, Qatari authorities have introduced several measures to improve the plight of migrant workers, but "a lack of effective implementation and enforcement has undermined their impact," Amnesty International reported in October. Qatar now seems to be aiming to step up enforcement efforts by improving the training of labour inspectors in cooperation with Belgium.

"We are working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to establish technical cooperation in the field of social inspection in Qatar," confirmed the office of Belgian Employment Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS, French-speaking socialists). "The idea is to cooperate on the training of labour inspection in Qatar. This could be achieved through an on-site visit by Belgian inspectors or an exchange of inspectors."

The cooperation concerns a tripartite agreement between France, Belgium and Qatar overseen by the ILO. The supervision by that independent international union is seen as a sign that Qatar may genuinely be willing to take steps to improve the plight of its workers, writes the Belgian daily.

Labour inspectors monitor the application of labour laws through inspections in companies. Qatar currently employs 60 inspectors for a population of about three million. A notably low number compared to Belgium, which employs 1,200 labour inspectors for 11.5 million inhabitants. 



Migrant workers working on the construction site of the al-Wakrah football stadium, one of Qatar's 2022 World Cup stadiums© AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI MARWAN NAAMANI

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