Migrant workers suffer abuse in Qatar construction sector

18 November 2013

Amnesty International report finds contractors are exploiting labourers

Many migrant labourers in Qatar’s construction sector are subject to abuse and exploitation as the country ramps up work on its Fifa football World Cup 2022 stadiums, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, based on interviews with workers, employers and government officials, documents a range of abuses against workers on these multibillion-dollar projects.

Amnesty said migrant workers are often subject to non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and squalid accommodation. Researchers also met dozens of labourers who were prevented from leaving the country for many months by their employers, leaving them trapped in Qatar with no way out.

“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,” says Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International.

“Construction companies and the Qatari authorities alike are failing migrant workers. Employers in the country 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 [regulations] to exploit construction workers.”

The report includes testimony from Nepalese workers employed by a firm delivering supplies to a construction scheme associated with the country’s planned Fifa headquarters.

The workers said they were “treated like cattle”, working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, even during the hot summer months.

Amnesty says its findings illustrate the inadequacy of the government’s existing arrangements to protect migrant workers. The human rights group is urging the authorities to enforce existing labour protections and is calling for an overhaul of the sponsorship system, which leaves migrant workers unable to leave the country or change jobs without their employers’ permission.

“The world’s spotlight will continue to shine on Qatar in the run-up to the 2022 football 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,” says Shetty.

A MEED Subscription...

Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.

Get Notifications