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Qatar Releases British Researchers Arrested While Investigating Abuses of Migrant Workers

The case has increased attention on the conditions under which the mostly Nepalese workforce labors, heavily criticised by activists as the country prepares for the 2022 World Cup.

by Ben Bryant
Sep 9 2014, 9:20am

Image via Anti-Slavery International

Two British human rights researchers arrested in Qatar after investigating the treatment of migrant workers have been released without charge.

Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and Ghimire Gundev, 36, who worked for the Global Network for Rights and Development, had been missing since 31 August. Upadhyaya confirmed his release just before midnight on Monday, writing on Facebook: "Just released, will fly in two days time!"

Qatar's foreign ministry is yet to comment.

Sarita Poudyal, the wife of Upadhyaya, confirmed to VICE News that she had spoken to her husband and that the men had been released after eight days.

She said: "I'm feeling so, so happy and really relieved. I'm looking forward to seeing him as soon as possible.

"I spoke to him at midnight on the phone. He said they just released him 15 minutes ago and he's in a hotel. He said he's not quite sure when he's going to come.

"They said that there were no charges."

The men are staying in the Grand Hyatt hotel in Qatar and preparing for their departure.

The researchers failed to board their August 31 flight out of Qatar, after Upadhyaya sent an urgent text to a friend in Norway saying: "I am being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now."

Rights Groups Demand Answers from Qatar over 'Disappearance' of UK Researchers Investigating Abuses of Migrant Workers. Read more here

Qatar's foreign ministry did not confirm the men's detention until Saturday, when a statement carried by the official Qatar News Agency said the men had been arrested and were "being interrogated for having violated the provisions of the laws of the state of the Qatar".

The statement said "the actions that have been taken against the two Britons are consistent with the principles of human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the laws of the State of Qatar."

The men arrived in Qatar on August 27 to research a report on the Nepalese migrant workforce, which labors under conditions that have repeatedly drawn criticism from human rights groups as Qatar embarks on an ambitious construction effort in advance of the 2022 World Cup.

Giving the World Cup to Qatar Was a Really Stupid Idea. Read more here

A report commissioned by Qatar in May revealed that 964 migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and India had died in 2012 and 2013, many from unexplained sudden illness.

The study, by international law firm DLA Piper, called for changes to the kafala system under which migrant workers are tied to their sponsoring employers.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International have accused the kafala system of perpetuating widespread abuse and exploitation, and say that 90 percent of workers have their passports taken away.

Qatar has promised to replace the kafala system with contracts, but activists say there has been no genuine reform.

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