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Amnesty International exposes abuse of World Cup workers in Qatar

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Migrant workers employed in the refurbishment of Khalifa International Stadium in Doha for the 2022 World Cup suffer systematic abuses of their rights, including in some cases forced labour, according to a new report published by Amnesty International.

The report, called “The ugly side of the beautiful game: Exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup site”, is based on interviews with 132 migrant construction workers rebuilding the 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 the football teams Bayern Munich, Everton and Paris Saint-Germain are said to have trained this winter.

“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.

Testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reported different abuses, including squalid and cramped accommodation, paying large fees to recruiters in their home country to get a job in Qatar, and not receiving a salary for months on a row. Other abuses also included employers denying workers residence permits or their renewal, leaving them at risk of detention and deportation as “absconded” workers, and the confiscation of their passports and refusal to issue exit permits so they could not leave the country. Finally, a number of workers reported that they were threatened for complaining about these conditions.

Companies involved in the project fail to meet Welfare Standards

The work on the Khalifa Stadium refurbishment involves a chain of contractors reporting ultimately to a single client. That client, according to Amnesty International research, is the Aspire Zone Foundation, created by Emiri decree in 2008 with the aim of establishing Qatar as a global centre for elite sporting events. Aspire Zone Foundation appointed to be the main contractor for Khalifa Stadium a joint venture involving Midmac, a Qatari construction company, and Six Construct, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Besix.

The complex industrial network involved in the World Cup project includes other enterprises employed on the site to carry out specific elements of the refurbishment. For instance, a subsidiary of the Malaysian company Eversendai, working in Khalifa stadium operations, used at least two labour supply companies, Seven Hills and Blue Bay. These companies perform small operations in which a sponsor brings a number of migrant workers to Qatar and then hires them out to other companies to do work. As the report explains, labour supply companies generally do not engage in specific commercial activity themselves; essentially their business is the hiring out of people.

All these companies are bound to the Workers’ Welfare Standards published in 2014 by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organization responsible for World Cup 2022 and ultimately for stadium construction. They require companies working on World Cup projects to deliver better standards for workers than are provided for under Qatari law.

Nevertheless, according to Salil Shetty, such standards are not being met, while both Qatari authorities and FIFA, the international association responsible for the football matches, have failed to take adequate action.

“The Supreme Committee has shown commitment to workers’ rights and its welfare standards have the potential to help. But it is struggling to enforce those standards. 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,” said Shetty.

Amnesty International is calling 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.

Additionally, the organisation calls FIFA to push Qatar to publish a comprehensive reform plan before World Cup construction peaks in mid-2017.
Essential steps according to the organisation 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.

The full press release and the report are available on Amnesty International Website.

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