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‘Qatar fails to protect domestic workers’ Family of Jazeera journalist urges Egypt to free him

 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 23, (Agencies): An international human rights group has slammed Qatar for failing to protect foreign maids and other domestic workers from exploitation, adding pressure on the Gulf state over its labor practices as it gears up to host the 2022 World Cup. Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday that the migrant workers in the natural gas-rich country face abuse including forced labor, excessively long working hours, verbal harassment and physical and sexual violence. Its researchers spoke to women who reported working as many as 100 hours per week with no days off, and others who were banned from leaving the house altogether. Like millions of other migrant workers in the region, their residency in the country is tied to their employers through a sponsorship system that stops workers from easily changing jobs. “Women who find themselves in abusive households face utterly miserable conditions,” Audrey Gaughran, the group’s global issues director, said in a statement. “They have few options - if they choose to simply to get out of the house, they will be branded ‘runaways’ and are likely to end up being detained and deported.” OPEC member Qatar has come under increasing fire over its treatment of foreign workers, particularly those working in a booming construction industry raising plush villas and cutting- edge skyscrapers from the sand. It has tried to allay those concerns by outlining how employers must protect workers’ rights.

Meanwhile, the family of an Al- Jazeera reporter detained in Egypt since August and on hunger strike since January 21 said on Wednesday his health is deteriorating and called for his release. Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist for the pan-Arab satellite news network, was arrested on August 14 when police dispersed supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi at the massive Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo, killing hundreds in clashes. “I call upon the public prosecutor, who is a father, to answer the plea of a mother by releasing Abdullah today,” Thuraya Elshamy said at a news conference organised by Al-Jazeera in Doha. “My son is a journalist — journalism is not a crime,” she said. Elshamy’s father urged action to save the life of his son, stressing that “his health has deteriorated due to the hunger strike”. Elshamy, and three other journalists for Al-Jazeera English including Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed, face charges of spreading news that falsely sought to portray Egypt in a state of “civil war” and colluding with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. An Egyptian court heard on Tuesday new prosecution evidence, including audio tapes, against some of the journalists before setting the next hearing for May 3.

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