Foreign laborers in Qatar on May 4, 2015. (AFP/ Marwan Naamani, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Qatar is to create work opportunities for up to 20,000 Palestinians, the Palestinian ambassador to Qatar said Saturday.
Munir Ghannam told Ma’an that "practical steps have started to embrace Palestinian workers in Qatar, as the country plans to host the first group of Palestinian workers after the holy month of Ramadan."
Qatar agreed in January 2014 to grant work visas to 20,000 Palestinians, following 20 years in which Palestinians had been unable to apply for work in the prosperous Gulf state.
The first group of Palestinian employees will include 200 Gazans and an unspecified number from the West Bank, and are expected to work in the field of education, the ambassador said Saturday.
He added that the embassy had asked Qatari officials to employ Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora as well.
Ghannam said that a number of Qatari companies were scheduled to submit applications Saturday asking for permission to bring about 2,000 Palestinians into the country to work for them.
The ambassador said that Palestinian employees will be treated according to Qatari work laws and regulations, adding that Qatari companies and organizations "prefer to contract employees directly without a need for brokers."
Work conditions in Qatar have come under international scrutiny in recent months ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
With tens of thousands of foreign workers living in squalid conditions, Qatar agreed in May to build seven "cities" to house more than 250,000 employees.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the move, but said: "Housing has never been identified as the major problem in Qatar, it's the system that's the problem."
"The problems are the mechanisms of control which place an inordinate amount of power in the hands of employers."
The Palestinian employees are expected to take more specialized roles, with slightly improved work conditions.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah initially met with Qatari Emir SheikhTamim Ibn Hamad Al Thani in January 2014 to request that Qatar allow Palestinians to work there in order to help reduce unemployment rates in Palestine.
Ghannam said that the Palestinian Ministry of Labor agreed with its Qatari counterpart to create a joint information bank to which Palestinians send their resumes and contact information.
This information is accessible to Qatari employers who can choose the people they want and contact them directly.
Ghannam said that there are around 20,000 Palestinians already working in Qatar who have been living there for decades, before restrictions on work visas came into place.