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15.02.2007 General News

'We Are Close To Heaven'

By daily guide

A fact-finding government delegation, during a visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, met with a number of Ghanaians at Aziziyah Camp on Tuesday, where the story was once more a reverse of the tale of woes associated with Camp 42. The mostly artisans and technicians said they were happy with their work. “We are close to heaven where we are. We are not part of Camp 43. Tell our people at home that we are doing okay,” one of them said.

It would be recalled that the arrival of the first batch of Ghanaian workers from Qatar was greeted with a bad press after some of the migrants called into some radio stations to complain about their woeful plight in the oil-rich country.

The Manpower Ministry delegation, headed by Dr Charles Brimpong, Deputy Minister in charge of labour, assisted by Dr Sam Okoampa Archer, a Director responsible for policy issues, therefore set off to find out what exactly was happening. The delegation discovered however that it was only workers at Camp 43 that had problems, with some of them even threatening to go home as soon as they received the money they paid for the trip.

Ironically, the story in Camp 43 differed from the others housing Ghanaian workers. Currently, two companies were the main employers of Ghanaian workers exported recently to Qatar-Al Jaber and Consolidated Contractors International Company S.A.L. (CCIL).

It was the former whose Camp 43 had a large number of Ghanaian workers and the source of the troubles which rocked the labour exportation to Qatar recently.

Al Jaber is mainly a building contracting firm currently engaged in the execution of various major projects scattered throughout the country. CCIL, which is engaged in the construction of structures related to the petro-chemical industry, did not have the sort of problems discovered at Camp 43.

They had a well laid-out arrangement for their workers which included Ghanaians. Their recruitment team was currently in Ghana to pick more workers. It was at their camp, situated a long distance from Doha, where the highest degree of morale was noticed by the delegation.

The deputy minister told the workers, made up of safety officers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters and the like to consider contributing to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT). He explained the advantages of such a contribution, but said he was going to get SSNIT to possibly send an officer to come and register those who did not belong to it.

To make the arrangement possible, he stated, employers in Qatar would be negotiated with on the subject. “Consider yourselves as ambassadors of Ghana in this country and lift high the flag for the country even though you are pursuing your own private agenda,” they were encouraged.

When the floor was open for discussion, the Ghanaian workers expressed their pleasure at the opportunity to work in Qatar. They however raised such issues as their medical facilities, pay increase and proper designation.

On the issue of health, they were told a special polyclinic had been earmarked for them and that the money they used for medication would be refunded. The deputy minister told them that their employer, Al-Jaber had been advised to make provision for a special imprest for miscellaneous expenses such as purchases on medication.

The delegation discovered during the visit that the edginess assoicated with the Qatar venture and the subsequent bad press it attracted emanated from Camp 43, the abode of some Ghanaians working for Al-Jaber Trading and Construction Company.

At the Aziziya Camp, with a relatively more mature complement of workers, it was a different kettle of fish. Some members of the delegation were overwhelmed by the number of workers who wanted to have items such as mobile phones sent to their friends and relatives in Ghana. In their rooms, we found TV sets and other electronic gadgets.

The delegation took another trip to the Philippine's labour Attaché's office to learn about the elaborate system of exporting labour from that country to Qatar.

The Deputy Minister requested the attaché to honour his country's invitation when it decides to have her come and offer an education on how to formalize the exportation of labour to Qatar.