Qatar: Amnesty International says World Cup workers abused

Doha, Qatar (PANA) - Migrant workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha for the 2022 World Cup have suffered systematic abuses, in some cases forced labour, according to a new report published by Amnesty International on Thursday.

The report, "The ugly side of the beautiful game: Exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup site", criticises "shocking indifference" by world football governing body, FIFA, to appalling treatment of migrant workers. The number of people working on World Cup sites is set to surge almost ten-fold to around 36,000 in the next two years.

“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football. For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty.

“Despite five years of promises, FIFA has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses,” Shetty said in a statement.

It said the report is based on interviews with 132 migrant construction workers rebuilding Khalifa stadium, set to be the first stadium completed for the tournament and slated to host a World Cup semi-final in 2022. A further 99 migrants also interviewed were landscaping the green spaces in the surrounding Aspire Zone sports complex, where Bayern Munich, Everton and Paris Saint-Germain trained this winter.

The report said every single gardener and construction worker who spoke to Amnesty International reported abuse of one kind or another, including:

- squalid and cramped accommodation,
- paying large fees ($500 to $4,300) to recruiters in their home country to get a job in Qatar,
- being deceived as to the pay or type of work on offer (all but six of the  men had salaries lower than promised when they arrived, sometimes by half),
- not being paid for several months, creating significant financial and emotional pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts,
- employers not giving or renewing residence permits, leaving them at risk of detention and deportation as “absconded” workers,
- employers confiscating workers passports and not issuing exit permits so they could not leave the country,
- being threatened for complaining about their conditions.

It said Amnesty International uncovered evidence that the staff of one labour supply company used the threat of penalties to exact work from some migrants such as withholding pay, handing workers over to the police or stopping them from leaving Qatar. "This amounts to forced labour under international law," it said.

The statement said the workers, mostly from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, spoke to Amnesty International in Qatar between February and May 2015.

The report said when Amnesty International researchers returned to Qatar in February 2016, some of the workers had been moved to better accommodation and their passports returned by companies responding to Amnesty International findings, but other abuses had not been addressed.

“Indebted, living in squalid camps in the desert, paid a pittance, the lot of migrant workers contrasts sharply to that of the top-flight footballers who will play in the stadium. All workers want are their rights: to be paid on time, leave the country if need be and be treated with dignity and respect,” said Shetty.

Amnesty International said Qatar’s kafala sponsorship system, under which migrant workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s (or “sponsor’s”) permission, is at the heart of the threats to make people work. It added that  much-touted reform of the sponsorship system, announced in late 2015 will do little to alter the power dynamics between migrant workers and their employers.

The statement said some of the Nepali workers told Amnesty International they were not even allowed to visit their loved ones after the 2015 April earthquake that devastated their country leaving thousands dead and millions displaced.

Amnesty International called on major World Cup sponsors like Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to pressure FIFA to address the exploitation of workers on Khalifa stadium, and disclose its plan for preventing further abuses in World Cup projects.

FIFA should push Qatar to publish a comprehensive reform plan before World Cup construction peaks in mid-2017, it said.

Essential steps include removing employers' power to stop foreign employees from changing jobs or leaving the country, proper investigations into the conditions of workers and stricter penalties for abusive companies. FIFA itself should carry out, and publish, its own regular independent inspections of labour conditions in Qatar, Amnesty International added.

In a context where the Qatari government is apathetic and FIFA is indifferent, it will be almost impossible for the World Cup to be staged without abuse

“Hosting the World Cup has helped Qatar promote itself as an elite destination to some of the world’s biggest clubs. But world football cannot turn a blind eye to abuse in the facilities and stadiums where the game is played,” said Shetty.

“If FIFA’s new leadership is serious about turning a page, it cannot allow its showcase global event to take place in stadiums built on the abuse of migrant workers,” Shetty added.
-0- PANA MA 31March2016

31 مارس 2016 07:59:10




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