The Qatari authorities have published maps detailing “no-go” zones where poor labourers living in Doha without their families will not be allowed to live.
Doha News reports that the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning published a series of interactive maps on its website in Arabic that highlight the districts where labourer accommodation is banned.
This includes almost all of central Doha, as well as certain parts of Al Wakrah, Al Khor, Umm Salal and swathes of Al Rayyan and Al Shahaniyah.
The zones highlighted in yellow are designated “family housing areas,” where labour camps are not permitted.
The law will effectively target the poorly-paid South Asian population who have built Doha up over the years. Sources told 5Pillars that it would further entrench a sort of “social apartheid” that already exists whereby Qataris and Western expats remain at the top and South Asian labourers remain at the bottom.
Qatar is one of the richest nations on earth and the locals and Western expats especially enjoy a high standard of living. But human rights groups have regularly criticised the Qatari authorities for systematically discriminating against poor labourers mainly from places such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
While the so-called “bachelor ban” is not new this appears to be the first time the government has released detailed maps highlighting family-only zones.
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According to the Peninsula, these maps are to be used by authorities to enforce the law through inspections and investigations.
Legislation on this issue was passed five years ago, when Qatar’s former Emir ratified Law No. 15 of 2010, Prohibition of workers’ camps within residential areas, although it didn’t go into effect until Nov. 1, 2011.
The move was spurred by complaints from members of the local community who said that they felt “threatened” in residential areas that had a large presence of male workers.
The law makes it illegal for sponsors to house groups of workers within these central areas, pushing them to labor camps in the Industrial Area and other districts out of town.
While the law itself was fairly vague in defining who this related to, the MMUP has previously clarified that it would only apply to groups of male construction and contracting workers being housed in group accommodation such as labor camps.
It does not apply to individuals working in grocery stores or barbers, or to male white-collar, professional employees.
However, many men in the latter category reported at the time that they had been told by employers to “keep a low profile” to avoid upsetting their neighbors.
Meanwhile, enforcement of the law has proved difficult, due to a lack of suitable housing and confusion over who was bound by the new rules.
Although often referred to as “bachelors,” many of the workers who have been banned from living in residential areas are married with families in their home countries, but live and work in Qatar for years without them.
Over the years, community members have criticized authorities for not properly enforcing the legislation. Penalties for infringing the 2010 law include fines of up to QR50,000 or up to QR100,000 for repeat offenders.
Finding housing in densely populated areas in Qatar is not the only problem blue-collar expats face.
There are regular reports of groups of men being turned away from shopping malls, Souq Waqif and from public events such as National Day celebrations, with security officials citing these as “families only” venues.
The majority of Qatar’s blue-collar workforce is now housed in dedicated labour camps, in the Industrial Area to the west of Doha, as well as in other areas which are usually far from “family” residential areas.
Poor labourers usually cannot afford taxi fares to reach central Doha so it is likely that social segregation will be further entrenched.
Qatar has been under significant pressure to improve the standard of its worker housing, which has been criticized by a number of groups for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and having insufficient facilities.