Amnesty slams Qatar migrant worker exploitation
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Construction companies in Qatar, which is experiencing a massive building boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, are involved in widespread abuse of migrant workers, according to Amnesty International.
The report, titled “The dark side of migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup”, details widespread abuse of migrant workers that the international human rights organisation claims often amounts to forced labour.
“We have met workers that have been unpaid for many, many months, up to nine months or a year in Qatar,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on migrant workers in the Gulf, in a film accompanying the report.
“Then they can’t leave the country because their employer won’t return their passports, won’t give them an exit permit, which is required under Qatari law, won’t buy them tickets,” he added.
These factors combined, he said, meant life in Qatar for many migrant workers was “deeply traumatic”.
Preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
The report is published as the Gulf Emirate experiences a massive construction boom ahead of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
According to Amnesty International, there are now around 1.35 million foreign nationals – mostly from Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka – working in Qatar, making up some 94 percent of the total workforce.
Nepalese workers employed by a supplier to build the FIFA headquarters in Doha told the NGO they were being “treated like cattle”, with employees working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week in Qatar’s searingly hot summer months.
“Please tell me - is there any way to get out of here? ... We are going totally mad,” said one Nepalese construction worker, who had not been paid in seven months and prevented from leaving Qatar for three months.
Amnesty researchers said they had witnessed 11 men sign papers to declare falsely that they had been paid their wages simply to get their passports back so that they could leave the country.
Qatar must ‘seize the opportunity’
“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,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The human rights group has called on the Qatari government to “seize the opportunity” to set an example on the protection of migrant workers’ rights.
The organisation has also called on FIFA to work with the Qatari authorities to prevent abuses.
“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 Shetty.
“But 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,” he concluded.