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Qatar MOI States Employers Will Be forced to Abide by the Rules

It doesn’t matter how enlightened the legislation – if the law is not enforced, the rules on the book are laughable. It gives the illusion of a lawful society, but if citizens know that they will not be penalized for breaking the law, they will scoff at the law and do as they please. People who came to the country expecting to make a fair wage and be treated decently and with dignity find themselves without proper paperwork due to the corruption of their employer or recruiter.

If the MOI in Qatar enforces this law, a terrible situation will be slightly better. This, from The Qatar Gulf Times:

 

By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter

 

With the Ministry of Interior (MoI) taking a firm stand on ID cards, residents believe that this will safeguard the interests of workers as their employers will now be forced to abide by the rules.

A report in the Tuesday edition of Gulf Times had quoted a senior official as saying that residents should always carry their residence permit ID cards and produce the same whenever asked by the authorities concerned. Those failing to do so would be fined up to QR10,000, the report had said, adding that the MoI could also transfer the sponsorship of expatriates if they proved that they were abused by sponsors under Law No 4/2009.

Welcoming the MoI’s decision, legal expert and rights activist Nizar Kochery said this would make employers more accountable as any long delay or failure on their part to stamp the visas of their staff would invite a hefty fine.

“There have been cases of companies refusing to stamp visas for long periods and workers being picked up by the law-enforcing agencies for failing to produce valid residence proof,” said Kochery, adding that the ministerial reaffirmation would force employers to stamp visas promptly.

Reacting to the report, an Asian diplomat said his country’s mission frequently received complaints from people alleging that their employers had not stamped their visas even months after their arrival in Qatar.

“The embassy receives such complaints from expatriates every week though there has been a drastic fall in their numbers in recent times due to strict enforcement of the rules by the local authorities,” he added.

Kochery said there should also be stringent implementation of the rules pertaining to expatriates’ passports. “Though the ministry issued guidelines more than three years ago on the issue of custody of passports, complaints of violation of this norm continue,” the legal expert said.

The ministry had instructed employers to hand over the passports of employees after the completion of formalities. However, there have been cases of some employers retaining the passports in violation of the local rules.

“A similar fine (like the one for not carrying IDs) should be imposed on erring employers for illegally keeping their workers’ passports,” he said.

A few years ago, this newspaper had reported about a theft in a manpower company’s office in Musheireb. More than 150 passports of workers, which the firm had kept in its custody in violation of rules, went missing in the incident. Meanwhile,  residents have also said similar penalties were required to curb violations regarding exit permits as well. A social activist in the Indian community said there have been complaints of employers failing to arrange exit permits for their workers on time even during emergencies.

There have also been reports of residents, mainly drivers, lodging complaints with embassies, alleging that their sponsors take away their licences when they go on vacation.

“The MoI should consider imposing hefty fines on such employers as well. Like a passport, a driving licence is not only the property of an individual, but is also a proof of identification under the local rules,” said Kochery.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pet Peeves, Qatar, Relationships, Scams, Social Issues, Transparency, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

New Driving License Restrictions to Ease Traffic in Qatar

It looks like rather than investing in better highways, Qatar will follow in Kuwait’s footsteps to restrict driver’s licenses. This is another example of a law that invites unequal enforcement. “Ambiguous” implies that the rule will not be applied to everyone, but will be subject to bribery and connections to the right people.

Why do I even care, you might ask. As a white Western woman, this rule won’t apply. I won’t be stopped in traffic stops; if I am, and can’t show a valid license, I will politely be told I need to get one. But I publish this because it isn’t fair. It applies to my fellow expat wives, as well as to the hairdresser who would come to my home to cut my hair, or the carpenter with his own little business who wants to deliver the new couch he made for me. And, if the traffic doesn’t get better by eliminating catagories of employment, the next step considered is often eliminating licenses for WOMEN.

If the taxi situation in Doha were not so abysmal, it could be bearable not to have a license, but once the state took over the taxi business and ruthlessly clamped down on independently owned and operated taxis, taxi transportation was no longer the blessing it once was. Even at the most posh hotels in town, you might wait an hour for a taxi to show up. Or maybe things have radically improved in the time since I have been gone, but I somehow doubt it.

From the Qatar Gulf Times:

Driving schools in Qatar have started  “implementing” the Traffic Department’s decision to make certain categories of expatriate workers ineligible for driving licences but there was some ambiguity in the whole exercise as the plan is in its initial phase, sources yesterday said.

According to an unofficial list those who are eligible include sales representatives, accountants, administrators, representatives, sales supervisors, receptionists, clearance agents and fitness trainers. Also, professionals like doctors, engineers, pilots, architects and lawyers will find no problem in getting a licence.

However, people who work as clerks, stewards, cashiers, salesmen, foremen, tailors, blacksmiths, masons, cooks, carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians, mechanics, computer technicians, waiters, barbers, beauty saloon workers, store keepers, photographers and secretaries will not be issued driving licences.

People who are brought to the country on driver visas, whether they are sponsored by companies or individuals, will not find it difficult to get a licence, the source said.

An employee of a driving school said the Traffic Department had yet to issue an official and final roster of categories that will be allowed to apply for a licence.

“Right now, they are in the process of  implementing the new rule and so there is some ambiguity,” he said.

The licensing section of the Traffic Department had earlier issued a circular limiting the issuance of driving licences to certain categories of expatriate workers. The move is aimed at easing traffic congestion on Qatar roads.

The source also referred to  another change in policy where students who failed the road test four times might  not be given a fifth chance anymore.

He  disclosed that there was a plan to ban  old cars on Qatar’s roads. “The new rules will be implemented very strictly.”

Earlier reports said that the Central Municipal Council (CMC) members had welcomed the move, saying it would significantly contribute to reducing the growing number of new vehicles on roads, which was cited as one of  the major causes of traffic jams.

The source said the Traffic Department will also study the impact of the new rule  in the coming months.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Qatar, Social Issues, Survival, Technical Issue, Transparency, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

“Heavyweight Saudi Arabia” Influence Counters “Over-Stepping” Qatar?

From the Kuwait Times, a fascinating comparative analysis of the influence of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Islamic countries in transitions:

 

Qatar losing ground to Saudi diplomacy

headline2

 

DUBAI: Qatar, a key supporter of Islamists who rose to power in Arab Spring countries, is losing ground in regional politics to Saudi Arabia which appears to have seized the reins on key issues, notably Egypt and Syria. The decline in Qatar’s regional diplomacy comes as its powerful emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani unexpectedly abdicated in favor of his son Tamim last month.

The wealthy Gulf state had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010. The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.

“Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al-Manna. Jonathan Eyal, head of international relations at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Qatar’s regional politics have failed.

“Qatar’s Middle Eastern diplomacy now lies in ruins: it failed to produce dividends in Libya, backfired in Syria and has now collapsed in Egypt,” local Emirati daily The National quoted him on Tuesday as saying. Realizing the damaging effects of their policies, Manna noted, “the Qataris sought to cut down on their commitments” which were already affected by the emir’s abdication and the sidelining of the influential prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al-Thani.

As a result, “Saudi Arabia, a historical regional US ally, regained its role” in coordination with other oil-rich Gulf monarchies, said Manna. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Morsi. And on Tuesday, the kingdom pledged $5 billion in assistance to Egypt. The United Arab Emirates, which has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the past few months, offered Egypt an aid package of $3 billion.

“Saudi Arabia wants to ensure stability in Arab Spring countries, regardless of its ideological interests,” said analyst Abdel Aziz Al-Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre. “It had supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but reconsidered this support after the Brotherhood failed to run the country wisely,” he argued. But the Saudi researcher downplayed the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which have been looking to expand their influence during the Arab Spring uprisings and prevent any potential revolt against their own autocratic regimes.

“The Saudi-Qatari harmony still exists and there is no battle for influence between the two countries,” said Sager. And as proof, “Riyadh was the first to be informed of the political change in Qatar, six months before it took place. And it welcomed it.” But the two countries, whose relations have been historically tense or at least marked by mistrust, support two different approaches of political Islam that emerged strongly in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Qatar sides with political parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose experience was cut short despite the strong media support they enjoyed from the influential Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia promotes Salafist groups that focus less on politics and more on implementing Shariah Islamic law on daily life matters such as forcing women to wear a veil and prohibiting the mixing between sexes. Saudi King Abdullah has reiterated his country’s stance against using Islam for political purposes.

“Islam rejects divisions in the name of one party or another,” he said in a statement marking the start Wednesday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The kingdom will never accept” the presence of political parties, that “only lead to conflict and failure.” But regardless of the political agendas of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the people who rose up during the Arab Spring revolts will have the final word on their own political futures, argued former Bahraini cabinet minister Ali Fakhro. “It is the Arab people, not Qatar nor Saudi Arabia, who will determine the political future of the region.” – AFP

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment