The Doha Debates at Qatar Foundation yesterday saw a free discussion on the human rights issue in the Gulf, with a majority of the participants expressing the view that the rights of nationals as well as the migrant work force are not properly protected by the governments in the region. The motion “This House believes that Gulf Arabs value profit over people” was carried with 75 percent votes,.
The panel of speakers included two former Qatari ministers- Former Minister of Justice Dr Najeeb Al Nuaimi and former Minister for Economy and Commerce, Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed Jassim Al Thani. Nuaimi, a well-known human rights activist spoke for the motion, while Sheikh Mohammed represented the other side. Dr Mansoor Al Jamri, editor-in-chief of the Alwasat daily in Bahrain and Dr Tarik Yousef, an economist and founding Dean of the Dubai School of Government were the other speakers, sitting in opposite sides in the panel.
Nuaimi said that not only the migrant workers in the Gulf but also a section of the native population have been denied their rights. He claimed that poverty is still existing in the Gulf countries.
“Three Qatari families have been forced to live in a three-bed room house and an elderly citizen is living on a monthly pension of QR2,900,” said Nuaimi, citing some examples. He also drew attention to the poor living conditions of the thousands of unskilled Asian workers in the country.
Sheikh Mohammed said, despite individual cases of human rights violations, there is a strong commitment on the side of the government to correct the situation. The law has stipulated strict regulations to protect the rights of migrant workers. Employers violating the law have been taken to the public prosecution, he added.
On the other hand, the Gulf governments have been investing heavily in education and health care that has helped in improving life of the people. Life expectancy has gone up from 55 years to 76 years over the past ten years and mortality rate has fallen drastically. Mansour said the Gulf states are trying to silence the public by giving handouts while denying their political rights.
“They are presenting a fictitious image of prosperity through the high-rise buildings. About 70 per cent of the money is going to the real estate developers,” he said.
While highlighting a brighter side, Tarik said, in a recent poll, the Gulf cities including Dubai and Doha have been placed among the top 10 cities where people would like to migrate and resettle.
Nuaimi called the Gulf governments to allow foreign workers to form trade unions, while Sheikh Mohammed said most Gulf states feel this is not the right time to do that.Mansour said the future policies of the Gulf countries would be decided not by their people, but by international organizations and some powerful governments.
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