There are an estimated 4,000 people living in modern slavery in Qatar (GSI 2018). Qatar is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labour and, to a much lesser extent, forced prostitution. Men and women from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and other countries voluntarily migrate to Qatar as unskilled laborers and domestic workers, often paying illegal and exorbitant fees to unscrupulous recruiters in the labour-sending countries, thereby increasing their vulnerability to debt bondage. Some workers subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, to include restricted movement, payment withholding, passport confiscation, exit permit retention, and threats of deportation or abuse. Individuals in Qatar sell visas to migrants and occasionally demand regular payments, enabling migrant workers to work illegally and without legal recourse against their respective sponsors, although reportedly this trend is on the decline.
At the age of 24, 'Maria' travelled from the Philippines to work as a domestic worker. When she arrived at the house of her new employers, her mobile phone, ID and documents were immediately taken from her. Her clothes were also confiscated, and she had to wear a uniform at all times. She was told she would be paid only 800 riyals [$220] per month, and her employers said they would hold the money and pay her salary in full at the end of her contract. Maria's responsibilities included taking care of three children under the age of four, gardening and cleaning. She woke at 05:30 every day and would start working immediately.
I was working all the time. I would have lunch at 16:00 ... I got no days off. I couldn’t go to church. At the beginning, she would sometimes give me a 30 minute break, and let me go to sleep at 22:00. Later, I got no break, and I’d go to sleep at midnight.
Once she gave me cheese with mould on it. She said, ‘it’s good enough for you’.
[When one of the maids left the house after a year without being paid, the wife physically assaulted Maria and another woman working in the house.]
She was angry about the girl who left. She pushed my head into the toilet and pulled my hair. I cried. She said, ‘stand up, I’ll send you to the agency.’ The other girl also cried. Madam pushed her too. When the girl tried to leave the manager pushed her. The girl said, ‘no, no’ and the manager pushed her again. I hid in the kitchen with the children. I was afraid.
I left was because I was never paid… I was always crying and Madame was angry at me all the time. Before I escaped, I asked God to give me a sign. When an alarm rang at the house, I thought that was the sign that I could go home. They had a camera in the house to watch us so I closed the kitchen door so the camera couldn’t see me. The key was in the door; I got outside. I walked and walked.
I saw a guard, and he said, 'where is your ID?' I said sorry. I went to the mall, and saw a guard there, and asked for a taxi. He asked why I needed a taxi. He asked if I had a problem; I said no. I saw a Filipina, and I said, ‘please help me.’ She said, ‘sorry, I’m busy.’ I went back to the mall to get a taxi. I said ‘sir, please send me to the airport’. [The driver] asked me why I was going to the airport. I said I was going on vacation.
Last week I went to the deportation centre, they said that without a passport, I can’t leave.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International