Migrant workers renovating a stadium that will host matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are subjected to “appalling” human rights abuses, a new report by Amnesty International alleges.
For its 52-page report, the organization interviewed 132 workers at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, another 99 landscapers in the surrounding Aspire Zone sports complex and three gardeners working at other spots from February to May 2015. The report alleges that workers must pay big recruitment fees and have their wages and passports confiscated all the while they are living in squalid and crowded conditions.
“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,” Amnesty International Salil Shetty said (via ESPN). “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.
“Despite five years of promises, FIFA has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses.”
Amnesty says that 3,200 workers, mostly migrants, work on the stadium every day, with 1.7 million migrant workers overall in Qatar, which is undertaking major infrastructure construction ahead of the World Cup. Qatar has come under criticism for migrant worker conditions in the past and Amnesty’s report is likely to bring renewed calls for change.
Workers who were interviewed by Amnesty, most of whom are from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, told of abuse that included either rundown or crowded living quarters, the withholding of salaries for months and the confiscation of passports, which means workers cannot leave the country. All are problems that workers have previously reported.
“God knows there are days when I cannot continue, everything becomes too much…” a Bangladeshi gardener Amnesty identified as Sakib said. “The only thing that keeps me alive is the thought of my children.”
Sakib, the report says, took out a loan to pay $4,000 (in U.S. dollars) to a recruitment agent.
Amnesty reports: “Recruitment agents also make false promises about the salary workers will receive, and the type of job on offer. One worker was promised a salary of U.S.$300 a month in Nepal, but this turned out to be U.S.$190 once he started work in Qatar. When workers tell companies they were promised higher salaries, they are simply ignored. As Mushfiqur, a gardener in the Aspire Zone, recalled, “My manager just said, ‘I don’t care what they said in Bangladesh. We are giving you this salary and nothing more. If you keep talking like this I’ll tell them to cancel your visa and send you back’.”
The report goes on to describe workers who are afraid to venture outside the work camps in which they live.
“Some employers don’t provide or renew residence permits, even though they are required to by Qatari law,” Amnesty’s website reports. “These ID cards show that workers are allowed to live and work in Qatar. Without them, workers can be imprisoned or fined. Because of this some of the men working on Khalifa Stadium are scared of venturing beyond the work site or their workers’ camp.”
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is leading Qatar’s development of tournament venues and other projects, said in a statement to the Associated Press that Amnesty “identified challenges in worker conditions existing during early 2015,” but said many of the issues raised in the report were addressed by June because of its own monitoring and enforcement efforts. The problems were limited to four of the more than 40 companies working on the stadium, it told the AP, and three of those companies are presently banned.
“The tone of Amnesty International’s latest assertions paint a misleading picture and do nothing to contribute to our efforts,” its statement said. “We have always maintained this World Cup will act as a catalyst for change — it will not be built on the back of exploited workers. We wholly reject any notion that Qatar is unfit to host the World Cup.”