Migrant Workers, a Vulnerable Population?


In a recent article, I read where Qatar is reviewing and fixing their migrant worker system, halting their kafala system.[1] The kafala system is used to monitor migrant laborers throughout many of the Middle Eastern Countries and most of the Gulf Counties.

In my travels to that region of the globe over the years, I have seen this arrangement first-hand. I have watched these workers trapped in their homes communicating from their balconies with one another. I have personally heard of multiple instances where a person’s travel documents are seized and kept by the employer. The worker then becomes a form of property, and has very little recourse to push back against their employer in cases of abuse. As an emergency manager, I wondered if in a disaster, this cross-section of society would just fall through the cracks.

While not traditionally an emergency management function, I think the condition of migrant workers is a real crisis issue that needs addressed, and no discipline is better equipped than emergency management. As people living or operating outside their nation or culture, they are vulnerable, making them more susceptible to the effects of hazards, and will require a little extra attention.

A safe and protected worker is a more efficient and effective worker.

[1] https://ohsonline.com/articles/2017/11/13/qatar-agrees-to-halt-kafala-system.aspx

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