DOHA: Migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages, the government said on Saturday, at a time of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and rock-bottom oil prices.

Images on social media showed more than 100 men blocking a main road in the Msheireb district of the capital Doha late on Friday, clapping and chanting as police looked on.

“In response to the late settlement of salaries, a small number of expatriate workers conducted a peaceful protest in the Msheireb area on May 22,” the labour ministry said in a statement.

“Following an immediate investigation (the ministry) has taken steps to ensure that all salaries will be promptly paid in the coming days.”

Legal action has been taken against the companies involved in non-payment of salaries, it added.

The oil-rich Gulf is reliant on the cheap labour of millions of foreigners, mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Many live in squalid camps far from the region’s showy skyscrapers and malls.

Almost 90 per cent of Qatar’s population is expatriate workers as the country completes dozens of mega-projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

But the coronavirus and its devastating economic impact have left many workers sick and others unemployed, unpaid and at the mercy of sometimes unscrupulous employers.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020

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