I’ve decided to start posting news articles from the Gulf region, so that you know what’s going on here. These will range from weird and hilarious to governmental policy and everything in between. Here are a couple to start:
TEXAS A&M Univer-sity at Qatar (TAMUQ) has hosted regional companies at its annual career fair as part of a week-long programme called Careers for Engineers 2008.
The event was organised by the university’s Academic Services Office for students and employers to connect with each other in time for the campus’ first graduation ceremony this May.
Students were able to submit resumes to over 20 local companies, hiring for both internships and full time employment.
Company representatives were able to interact with students on an informal one-on-one basis and also conducted formal interviews and information sessions about their companies.
With engineers in high demand within the country and regionally, companies are eagerly awaiting the first and subsequent classes to come out of TAMUQ.
Companies represented at the career fair included Alfardan, Oxy, Shell, Qatargas, Kahramaa, Qtel, Qapco, ExxonMobil, Q-Cert, QChem, Maersk Oil Qatar, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, GE, RasGas, Dolphin Energy, Qatar Petroleum, Halliburton, Qatar Steel, Qatar General Organisation for Standards and Metrology, Qatar Vinyl Company, and Oryx GTL.
“After attending the career fair, I am encouraged that the industry is not only looking for engineers, but Texas A&M engineers. I personally had three interviews and am hopeful that I will receive a positive reply for a summer internship,” sophomore mechanical engineering major Dani Wannous said.
US EMBASSY officials are urging a “liberalisation” of the sponsorship law to combat forced labour and human trafficking violations within Qatar.
The call comes amid increasing speculation regarding a draft law, currently awaiting approval, governing the entry and exit of foreigners, their residence and sponsorship.
The US embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Michael Ratney, said: “Trafficking is a serious problem as many expatriate workers make arrangements to come and work in Qatar for a certain wage and a certain number of hours, but then often find themselves to be working double the hours for half the pay when they actually get here.
“The current sponsorship and labour laws mean that this practice is all too common, and we have urged the Qatari government to look into this.”
A recent human rights report commissioned by the US State Department, covering countries to which America provides foreign assistance, made uncomfortable reading regarding the lives of some expatriate workers.
It stated: “Men and women from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East travel willingly to Qatar as labourers and domestic servants but often subsequently face conditions of forced labour and physical and sexual exploitation.
“Legislation guiding the sponsorship of expatriate labourers created conditions constituting forced labour or slavery.
“The dependence of foreign labourers on their employer for residency rights and the inability to change employment or to travel without the sponsor’s permission leaves them vulnerable to abuse and arrest.”
The report pointed the finger at individual employers, contractors and recruitment agencies for the violations, adding “there is no evidence of institutional involvement by government bodies or officials”.
At a press conference held to discuss the report yesterday, Ratney admitted that Qatar had made “steady progress” in its human rights record and hoped the country could lead the way for others to follow.
He said: “With its strong leadership (Qatar) has the potential to set an example in the region.”
And part of that example would be a “liberalisation of the code that governs workers in Qatar”.
Amendments to the current sponsorship law, insisted Ratney, would benefit not only the largely expatriate workforce but also result in increased competition to the benefit of all.
The US Department’s human rights report on Qatar for the year 2007 was based on information received from a variety of sources, including governments and multilateral institutions, national and international non-governmental groups, academics, jurists, religious groups and the media.
Ratney added that the Qatari authorities had also been extremely helpful in providing information.