(Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Dabbous)
Migrant workers set to begin construction work on the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar stadiums are heavily exploited and treated like animals, human rights group Amnesty International revealed.
"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," said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
"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 labor protections to exploit construction workers."
The decision by FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been seen as a controversial one for a number of reasons. There has been concern for the health of players and traveling fans who would have to face up to very high temperatures if the soccer tournament is played in the summer – leading to some officials suggesting it is moved to the winter, which would be a first in World Cup history and potentially clash with the Winter Olympics.
Human rights groups are pointing out even bigger problems, however, with Amnesty's report arguing that Qatar's multi-million construction sector is rife with abuse and exploitation. Workers, often times from South Asian countries like Nepal, find work in small or medium sized enterprises sub-contracted to major companies, who sometimes fail to offer them sufficient protection.
"Companies must ensure that migrant workers employed on construction projects linked to their operations are not being abused. They should be proactive and not just take action when abuses are drawn to their attention. Turning a blind eye to any form of exploitation is unforgivable, particularly when it is destroying people's lives and livelihoods," Shetty added.
While FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has spoken out on the issue and said that Qatar is making progress on worker's rights, other reports, such as one by BBC News, expose the promises migrant workers are given when travelling abroad to Qatar for work, and the harsh reality they face afterwards.
"We'd often get ill and then have to spend our salary on medical treatment," said Bir Bahadur Dong from Nepal who traveled to Qatar to work on a new airport.
"Instead of dying in Qatar, better to die here in Nepal."
The Amnesty report details interviews with workers, employers and government officials to expose the range of abuses that occur in one of the continent's wealthiest nations. Beside the dangerous working conditions, non-payment of wages and poor standards of accommodation, some workers are even prevented from leaving the country for many months by their employers.
"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," Amnesty's Secretary General added.