Diligence is due: Geneva Graduate Center seminar shines light on ilegal worker recruitment fees in Qatar
On the 6th of December 2021, Diligence is Due: Fair Recruitment Now was held at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Jointly organised by the Human RIghts, Conflict and Peace Student Initiative and the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute, the hybrid event shined light on the recruitment practices of G4S Qatar, a multinational private security company. With a focus on the collection of recruitment fees from migrant workers, the event facilitated a critical discussion on the importance of fair recruitment and the roles played by various actors ensuring the normalisation of ethical and fair labour recruitment in the private security industry, in Qatar and beyond.
The event was opened by two Master’s students at the Graduate Institute, Jason Nemerovski and Quah Wei Vei, who presented the findings of their research on G4S Qatar and recruitment fee collection. Their 9-month study was conducted in collaboration with UNI Global Union and involved interviews and surveys with 40 past and present migrant workers at G4S Qatar. The research found that recruitment fee payment remains a significant issue that raises the risk of debt bondage amongst workers, requiring urgent attention from both G4S and the Qatari government.
This was followed by a high-level panel discussion between four experts, including Eddy Stam (Head of UNI Global Union Property Services), Alix Nasri (International Labour Organisation), Jamie Williamson (International Code of Conduct Association) and Ruth Hopkins (investigative journalist and author of Misery Merchants). The panel was moderated by Professor Delidji Eric Degila of the Graduate Institute.
During the discussion, important points were raised about the negative effects of recruitment fee payment by migrant workers, including the increased risk of unfree labour and debt bondage. Beyond this, the panelists critically engaged with ways for employers, governments and multi-stakeholder initiatives to promote fair recruitment practices.
While G4S Qatar’s unfair recruitment practices was highlighted in this research and event, it is not an isolated case. The collection of recruitment fees from migrant workers remains a prevalent business conduct in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Qatar has begun to introduce progressive labour reforms in the region and has the potential to continue to lead by example by encouraging fair recruitment practices.
Through their extensive research, the students at the Graduate Institute have done the due diligence for G4S Qatar with the support of UNI Global Union; a series of recommendations for various actors, including G4S, the Governments of Qatar and countries of origin, have been presented. The time for fair recruitment is now.