United Nations labour body drops case against Qatar over migrant worker rights

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The governing body of worldwide football has been under close scrutiny in recent years following the treatment of construction workers in Qatar and Russian Federation.

"The ILO welcomes the commitment of Qatar to engage in substantive cooperation with the Organization for the promotion and protection of workers' rights, and looks forward to the successful implementation of the cooperation programme over the next three years", said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

As part of a new draft bill, Qatar announced plans to introduce a minimum wage and allow the monitoring of labour practices by trained inspectors last month.

Qatari labor minister Issa bin Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi told the ILO meeting his government is "mindful to protect all migrant workers, including domestic workers".

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"While we welcome and support this agreement between the ILO and Qatar, we emphasise that nice words and good intentions are not sufficient". Their report make 33 detailed recommendations on issues the governing body should focus on, including, as a priority, "continuing to strengthen efforts to address risks to workers' rights on World Cup construction sites in Russian Federation and Qatar".

Luc Cortebeeck, Chairperson of the Governing Body said "the transformation of this complaint into a real commitment by the Government of Qatar to make positive change on the ground for all workers is a very encouraging development".

"We celebrate this moment for Qatar and its two million migrant workers", he added.

"Qatar has set a new standard for the Gulf states, and this must be followed by Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates], where millions of migrant workers are trapped in modern slavery", confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement.

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"This is a historic day", she said.

The Board of directors of the ILO has made a decision to "close out the complaint (.) relative to the non-observance of the forced labour convention and the convention on labour inspection in Qatar", said the Geneva-based organization, in a press release.

Qatar called the decision "an acknowledgement of the important steps our government has taken to develop a modern labor system" and said it was "grateful" to the migrant workers building the country's infrastructure. It has since been discussed at numerous sessions of the Governing Body.

As a result, the ILO confirmed it was withdrawing its complaint and launching a "comprehensive three-year technical cooperation programme in Qatar". The majority hail from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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