BRUSSELS: Trade union have criticised labour law changes announced by the Qatar government for 2017 as adding only “a new layer of repression for migrant workers.”

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said “Promises of reform have been used as a smokescreen to draw in companies and governments to do business in Qatar as the Gulf State rolls out massive infrastructure developments to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

She said the new law did not abolish the notorious exit permits, and workers still needed employers’ permission to leave the country.

Workers would be able to appeal to the Interior Ministry but most workers live in fear of that Ministry.  Migrant workers did not have the right to join a union or have a collective voice with elected workplace and representative committees.

Burrow added: “International companies doing business in Qatar can no longer be lured by Qatar’s promises of reform. The threat to the reputation of international companies using an enslaved migrant workforce in Qatar has increased with the Governments sham reforms.”

A meeting of the International Labour Organisation’s Governing Body meeting in Geneva in November will consider a Commission of Inquiry into abuse of migrant workers in Qatar putting governments and companies under increasing pressure to protect migrant workers in Qatar.

The investigation would look at Qatar’s failure to act on ILO findings that it is violating both the ILO’s forced labour Convention and labour inspection Convention  and have wide ranging implications for companies doing business in Qatar.  More than $200 billion is being spent on infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup and Qatar’s 2030 vision.

New census data released by the Government of Qatar last week shows the population has increased by 40 percent since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.

Some 700,000 more migrant workers have been drafted into Qatar to develop the country’s infrastructure.

An ITUC statement cautioned: “More than 7,000 workers will die in Qatar before the start of the 2022 World Cup, based on data from the Qatar Supreme Council for Health on death rates of migrant workers of working age which reveal an annual death toll of over 1,000 migrant workers.”

Access to the labour camps and millions of workers had become increasingly restrictive. Last May BBC journalists were arrested after being invited into the country for reporting on conditions in labour camps.