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Qatar’s construction sector is rife with abuse, with workers employed on multi-million dollar projects suffering serious exploitation, a leading human rights group said today.
Amnesty International’s report entitled: The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup, confirms the worst fears of trade unionists worldwide, with damning evidence of slave like conditions for many workers in the run up to the World Cup in 2022.
The report, based on interviews with workers, employers and government officials, documents a range of abuses against migrant workers. These include non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation. Researchers also met dozens of construction workers who were prevented from leaving the country for many months by their employers – leaving them trapped in Qatar with no way out.
Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:
“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.”
In one case, the employees of a company delivering critical supplies to a construction project associated with the planned FIFA headquarters during the 2022 World Cup, were subjected to serious labour abuses.
Nepalese workers employed by the supplier said they were “treated like cattle”. Employees were working up to 12 hour days and seven day weeks, including during Qatar’s searingly hot summer months.
Ms Shetty added:
“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.”
Prior to the Amnesty report, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) had both documented abuses of workers in Qatar.
ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow is calling on the Qatar authorities to:
– End the kafala system so workers can change employers and freely leave the country;
– Pass national laws allowing freedom of association for migrant workers, giving them the right to form and join trade unions and collectively bargain for fair wages and safe work;
– Overhaul grievance procedures for labour complaints;
– Work with international recruitment companies to clean up the mass recruitment of migrant workers;
– Introduce a fair and non-discriminatory minimum wage.
And the WFTU Secretariat said last month amid growing concerns over labour standards in Qatar:
“For some the World Sports events such as the World Cup are a first class opportunity for profits and advertisement. For the workers who build the infrastructures for the events it is “high-exploitation season”, low salaries, criminal lack of safety measures and death.
“The WFTU stands on the side of the migrant workers to support their struggle for their own interests and without any ulterior motive surrounding the competition amongst states and multinationals on who will take the responsibility of organizing the sport events bearing in mind the millions of profits that these events are expected to generate for the corporations.”