NEW YORK, April 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - South
Asian migrants powering the construction boom in oil-rich Gulf
countries are often illegally made to pay for their own
recruitment, adding to hardships of poor working conditions and
wages, according to an investigation released on Tuesday.
Millions of migrants seeking a way out of poverty by working
in Gulf nations from Qatar to the United Arab Emirates must
routinely pay fees that can equal a year's salary, U.S.
researchers said in a report.
"Recruitment is not free," said David Segall, of New York
University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, who
co-authored the report. "Somebody does have to bear these costs,
but that of course should be the employing company."
The findings come as conditions for construction workers
from India, Nepal and Bangladesh in the 2022 FIFA World Cup
host, Qatar, have come under scrutiny from rights groups who say
migrants live in squalor and work without proper access to water
In five fact-finding missions to the Gulf and South Asia,
the researchers found workers are typically made to pay for
their airfare from South Asia and their work visa - often at
Selling visas for profit is illegal in the six Gulf
countries the researchers investigated. These are Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain.
But violations are rarely prosecuted and punished by
authorities, their report said.
Bangladeshi workers paid as much as $5,200 in recruitment
fees, according to the study, the highest price among other
South Asian construction workers, who number some 10 million
people in the Gulf.
In rare cases, construction companies took on expenditures
to recruit their workers, the study found.
The fees had the effect of pushing already destitute
migrants further into poverty by tying them to high-interest
"These are people who are already desperate enough that they
feel that they need to undertake this journey, leave their
families in order to just achieve the possibility of economic
success," Segall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"For them to be in debt before they even start this journey
is really an injustice," he said in a phone interview.
Reports of abuse against migrant domestic workers have
prompted countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Indonesia
to ban their citizens in recent years from seeking jobs in the
The New York University report expands on the findings of an
investigation conducted in Qatar and released last week, which
concluded hundreds of Asian workers paid recruitment fees.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ros
Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)