The construction for the stadium of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is set to begin, but Amnesty International slammed Qatar for its alleged exploitation of migrant workers.
In its recent report titled, The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's construction sector ahead of the World Cup, Amnesty International slammed Qatar for alleged forced labour of migrant workers contracted for the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium.
"It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world, that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive," stated Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
"Construction companies and the Qatari authorities alike are failing migrant workers. Employers in Qatar have displayed an appalling disregard for the basic human rights of migrant workers. Many are taking advantage of a permissive environment and lax enforcement of labour protections to exploit construction workers."
"Companies must ensure that migrant workers employed on construction projects linked to their operations are not being abused. They should be proactive and not just take action when abuses are drawn to their attention. Turning a blind eye to any form of exploitation is unforgivable, particularly when it is destroying people's lives and livelihoods," said Mr Shetty.
"The world's spotlight will continue to shine on Qatar in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup offering the government a unique chance to demonstrate on a global stage that they are serious about their commitment to human rights and can act as a role model to the rest of the region," he added.
The report from Amnesty International was based on actual interviews with migrant workers, employers and government officials.
The scale of abuse:
- workers arriving in Qatar to find that the terms and conditions of their work are different to those they had been promised during the recruitment process - including salaries being lower than promised;
- workers having their pay withheld for months, or not being paid at all;
- employers leaving workers "undocumented" and therefore at risk of being detained by the authorities;
- migrant workers having their passports confiscated and being prevented from leaving the country by their employers;
- workers being made to work excessive (sometimes extreme) hours and employers failing to protect workers' health and safety adequately; and
- workers being housed in squalid accommodation.
Amnesty International was able to talk with employees for a company contracted to deliver construction supplies for the FIFA World Cup 2022 headquarters. These employees testified that they suffer labour abuses as they were made to work like cattle. They were forced to work 12 hours a day and seven days a week despite Qatar's hellish hot summer months. Worse, they could not just leave work and go back home. Believing the promise of a stable income in Qatar, they owed money back home to finance their Qatar job applications.
"Please tell me - is there any way to get out of here? ... We are going totally mad," one Nepalese construction worker told Amnesty International. He was unpaid for seven months and was prevented from leaving Qatar.
As for those who took courage to leave Qatar, they were blackmailed by their employees to sign contracts falsely claiming that they were paid in accordance with legal agreement. Unless they sign the papers, their passport will not be given back to them.
Poor working condition in construction sites also compelled migrant workers to work without safety gears, including helmets. A representative from an unnamed Doha hospital revealed that in 2012, there were more than 1,000 migrant workers admitted for head trauma for falling from height at work. Ten per cent of these workers ended being disabled.
In view of the said report, Amnesty International is calling Qatari authorities and FIFA World Cup organisers to look into the issue and immediately put a stop to the abuse.
"Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup," said Mr Shetty.
"Qatar is recruiting migrant workers at a remarkable rate to support its construction boom, with the population increasing at 20 people an hour. Many migrants arrive in Qatar full of hopes, only to have these crushed soon after they arrive. There's no time to delay - the government must act now to end this abuse.
"Unless critical, far-reaching steps are taken immediately, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who will be recruited in the coming years to deliver Qatar's vision face a high risk of being abused."