Damning new report slams Qatar, Fifa over treatment of migrant workers

The report says workers at Khalifa International Stadium are forced to live in foul accommodation.

Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Amnesty International has released a damning new report of the mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of the World Cup 2022.

The report says workers at Khalifa International Stadium are forced to live in foul accommodation, pay huge recruitment fees to attain their jobs whilst also having their passports confiscated and wages withheld.

Author of the report, Mustafa Qadri, says, "It starts back home where they pay large recruitment fees, often having taken a loan which leaves them in debt."

He went on to say, "They are given false promises about the money and type of work.

"When they arrive in Qatar they get their passports taken away from them which prevents them from leaving the country.

"They are put in really appalling dirty filthy labour camps and often are not paid on time and their paperwork is delayed.

"It is significant because without their relevant paperwork they can't get access to health services and they are also at risk of being deported either as undocumented migrants or runaway workers which is a crime in Qatar."

The Qatari government said its Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs would investigate the contractors named in the report.

The report also accuses Fifa of "failing almost completely" to stop the tournament "built on human rights abuses".

Qadri believes Fifa must share some of the blame.

"The businesses who are responsible for the abuse are not the only ones to blame, Fifa is to blame for failing to address these problems from the moment they chose Qatar (to host the World Cup)."

In 2015, Qatar assured that changes would be made to its labour system under which migrant workers could not leave the country or change jobs without the permission of their employer.

Qatar said it was concerned by the investigation and says the wellbeing of workers is a "top priority" and maintained their commitment to changing Qatar's labour laws.

Amnesty interviewed 231 migrants including 132 working at the Khalifa International stadium and stated that every migrant it had interviewed had reported abuses of one kind or another.

Some of the abuses include threats by employers for complaining about working and living conditions, being misled about the work and compensation they were to receive and being forced to pay recruiter fees of up to $4,300 in their home country in order to acquire a job in Qatar.

One worker from India who worked on the Khalifa stadium said, "He just shouted abuse at me and said that if I complained again I'd never leave the country," after he was threatened by his employer when he complained about not being paid for several months.

He went onto say, "Ever since, I have been careful not to complain about my salary or anything else. Of course, if I could I would change jobs or leave Qatar."

Nepalese workers told Amnesty that they were prevented from visiting their families after an earthquake had devastated the country with one worker saying working in Qatar was "like a prison".

Football clubs such Bayern Munich, Everton and Paris Saint-Germain have already used the facilities at the Khalifa Stadium.

With the number of migrant workers set to increase dramatically from 4,000 to around 36,000 in next couple of years, Amnesty wants Qatar to publish a proposal and implement it in order to improve the working environment, it also wants Fifa to implement it its own inspections of the labour conditions in each of the locations where stadium are being constructed.

Amnesty has called McDonald's, Adidas and Coca Cola, who are the World Cup's primary sponsors, to put pressure on Fifa to act on the issue saying, "It is time for football's leaders to speak out or be tainted by association".

Fifa says also it was not responsible for "solving all the societal problems" in a World Cup host country after acknowledging its responsibility of safeguarding human rights in the build up to the World Cup.