Migrant workers faced abuse that, in some cases, amounted to forced labour while working on a stadium that will host matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a report by Amnesty International alleged.
Rights groups and news organisations had previously raised concerns about working conditions in Qatar, but the latest Amnesty report stands out because it links alleged mistreatment directly to work on a World Cup venue.
The group’s findings will intensify pressure on Qatar to accelerate labour reforms as the tiny and immensely rich Gulf country races to transform itself with sweeping infrastructure projects ahead of the games.
Amnesty compiled the 52-page report based on interviews from February to May last year with 132 construction workers at the Khalifa International Stadium, one of several arenas that will host World Cup matches.
Foreigners account for roughly 90% of the 2.5m people living in Qatar, many of them low-paid migrant workers from South Asia.
Most of the workers interviewed in the Amnesty report were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
All of those interviewed reported some kind of abuse, including squalid, crowded living quarters; wages being withheld for months; and measures including passport confiscation that make it difficult to leave the country.
Many in the Amnesty report said their sponsoring employer failed to obtain or renew their work permits, leaving the workers subject to fines and detention.
Each reported going into debt to pay recruitment fees “illegal under Qatari law” ranging from $500 (€438) to $4,300 to secure work. Most discovered on arrival that they would be paid less than promised by recruiters back home.
Some of those interviewed reported earning basic salaries of well below $200 a month, plus allowances of around $50 a month for food.
The report’s most damning findings centre on what Amnesty says is evidence of forced labour involving workers employed on the refurbishment of the 1970s-built Khalifa stadium, which is being overhauled to host World Cup matches.
The forced labour allegations involve workers employed by at least one small labour supply company contracted to provide manpower on the stadium project.
One worker who told Amnesty he tried to return home because of consistently late pay alleges that his boss threatened to withhold his salary and told him to “keep working or you will never leave.”
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty’s Gulf migrant rights researcher, said he believes many other workers face similar situations, but confirming it is difficult because of the challenges in reaching workers and the risks they face in speaking to researchers.
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