From March to December of 2021, BMO co-founder, Jason Nemerovski, worked with UNI Global Union, a union federation based in Nyon, Switzerland, for his capstone project at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. The federation represents more than 20 million workers from over 150 countries in the skills and services industries. As part of a dynamic team made up of himself, Quah Wei Vei and Nina Lam, they looked specifically into the issue of migrant workers paying recruitment fees to work for G4S-Qatar, an autonomous branch of G4S, a private security giant. The payment of recruitment fees not only increases the risk of these workers to exploitation, but to put it simply, is illegal. Jason along with the team interviewed 40 former and current G4S Qatar employees from seven different countries: Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Nepal, and Uganda, along with 3 G4S-Qatar linked recruiters, finding strong evidence that the vast majority, if not nearly all, of these workers are paying recruitment fees.

Keep reading to learn more, or follow the link to view the full report into G4S-Qatar's unethical recruitment practices. You can also listen to first hand accounts explaining the recruitment practice of migrant workers by downloading the MP3 here.

 Main concerns

In Qatar, the collection of recruitment fees and related costs from migrant workers is prohibited, yet the practice remains widespread. Qatari companies recruit migrant workers from various countries, where the labour laws and their enforcement, particularly regarding recruitment fees, are more lenient or completely non-existent. Private security giant, G4S Global, is no exception. While G4S Global has committed to ending the collection of recruitment fees from migrant workers by 2026 under its Employer Pays Principle, no strategic plans have been announced for how G4S Qatar aims to achieve this goal. Furthermore, G4S Global has denied accountability for its G4S Qatar’s unfair recruitment practices in the past, citing G4S Qatar’s autonomous nature as an independent franchise. G4S Qatar has a workforce of 8,000 employees, many of whom are recruited from South Asian and African countries and report paying recruitment fees. The collection of recruitment fees by migrant workers is deemed unethical and unfair by both the Government of Qatar and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). To secure jobs abroad, migrant workers regularly take out loans with interest in order to afford the exorbitant fees. This accumulated debt can increase a migrant worker's risk of falling into debt bondage while raising their vulnerability to exploitation. Even in less extreme circumstances, it leads to situations in which workers are stuck in unfavourable working and living conditions. In such cases, returning home is not a realistic option as job insecurity could push them further into indebtedness. Migrant workers’ salaries are split between loan repayment, remittances for family, and personal living costs. This inevitably delays their ability to save and meaningfully improve their socioeconomic status.

 Research Objectives and Methodology

This report presents an in-depth study of the unfair recruitment practices of G4S’s franchise in Qatar. The research was conducted between April 2021 and December 2021, with the aim of collecting and analyzing significant evidence of G4S’s engagement in unfair recruitment practices. This includes understanding the prevalence of recruitment fee payment by G4S Qatar migrant workers, the amount paid in fees, and the impacts of unethical recruitment. Information was gathered through extensive surveys and interviews via social media with 40 former and current G4S Qatar employees from seven different countries: Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Nepal, and Uganda. These interviewees were found through connections via two UNI Global Union contract workers based in Kenya and social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). Workers explained the recruitment process from their home countries to G4S Qatar, with a focus on recruitment fee payment. They also elaborated on the methods of financing their recruitment fees, and the challenges of loan repayment. For every one worker that responded, there were numerous others who either did not reply or were too uncomfortable to complete the interview, highlighting the sensitivity of this issue. To complement the data received from G4S Qatar migrant workers, individual interviews with three recruiters based in Kenya with links to G4S Qatar were interviewed via Zoom. Additionally, consultations with various migration and human rights experts were conducted throughout the research to better understand the context and support the formulation of recommendations.

 Research findings

This report provides clear evidence of the collection of significant amounts in recruitment fees from migrant workers who are seeking employment at G4S Qatar. 39 out of the 40 former and current workers of G4S Qatar involved in this research reported having paid a recruitment fee. The average payment was US$1,525, which is 4.6 times the reported monthly salary at G4S Qatar and 5.5 times the legal minimum monthly salary in Qatar. 70 percent of those who paid a fee had to take out a loan; of the workers who borrowed, 71 percent reported difficulties with loan repayment. The average time taken to complete loan repayment was 9.3 months. Furthermore, interviews with the three Kenya-based recruiters with links to G4S Qatar complemented the data collected from migrant workers. They all reported (i) charging G4S Qatar migrant workers recruitment fees, (ii) not receiving service fees or compensation from G4S Qatar in exchange for their recruitment services, and (iii) that if G4S were to bear the full cost of recruitment, they would no longer need to charge migrant workers any recruitment fees. Notably, two of the recruiters reported direct collaboration between G4S Qatar and G4S Kenya in organising local recruitment drives to recruit migrant workers for G4S Qatar. This implicates G4S Global in G4S Qatar’s unfair recruitment practices because G4S Kenya is entirely owned by G4S Global. This finding explicitly contradicts the claim that G4S Qatar operates completely independently from G4S Global. 

 Key recommendations

This research report presents three proposals to G4S Qatar that will positively impact its migrant workers. All three proposals involve immediately ending the collection of recruitment fees and related costs from migrant workers is immediate. Proposal 1 includes a payback scheme in which all former and current G4S employees are reimbursed for the recruitment fees they unfairly incurred. Proposal 2 also includes a payback scheme, but only for current G4S Qatar employees. Proposal 3 solely involves the immediate end to the charging of recruitment fees on migrant workers. Further recommendations for a range of stakeholders, including G4S Global, G4S’s clients, the Government of Qatar, and governments of origin countries, are also presented.