Amnesty criticises treatment of workers in Qatar

discusses the state of human rights in the wealthy Gulf state

Photo Credit: Xavier Bouchevreau

Photo Credit: Xavier Bouchevreau

A report published by Amnesty on Sunday lead to a rise of fresh fears of the exploitation of migrant workers. Amnesty strongly condemned what it called the “ruthless exploitation” of migrant workers in Qatar, calling it “inexcusable” that labourers in the wealthy Gulf kingdom had been “left struggling to survive.” They stated that Qatar’s construction industry is rife with abuse of migrant workers who are “treated like cattle” and live in squalid accommodations.

Given that the 2022 World Cup is to take place in Qatar, Amnesty also called upon FIFA to help prevent further abuse of workers who are subjected to poor and dangerous working conditions, given inadequate accommodation, not paid or prevented from leaving Qatar. The report claimed that some of the migrant workers are victims of forced labour, and they were treated appallingly. This report came a week after FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, met the country’s emir and declared Qatar was on “the right track” in dealing with workers’ rights

In November 2011, the FIFA general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, met Qatari officials to address the issue of workers’ rights and the Qatari authorities promised to take the issue seriously. Amnesty carried out interviews with 210 migrant workers in the construction sector and carried out inspection visits in October 2012 and March 2013 and suggests change is nowhere near fast enough, despite a new charter introduced by the supreme committee, which applies only to the World Cup stadiums and not to infrastructure. It said some are living without running water or exposed to overflowing sewage tanks and others have been threatened with deportation and loss of income. The report also features accounts of workers who had become suicidal.

Amnesty International’s general secretary, Salil Shetty, said: “Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup. “Many migrants arrive in Qatar full of hopes, only to have these crushed soon after they arrive. There’s no time to delay — the government must act now to end this abuse”. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last month that his organisation cannot be held accountable after reports of deaths on building sites connected to the World Cup preparations.

The abuse of migrant workers – mostly from South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal – is expected to get worse as Qatar tries to meet construction deadlines for the 2022 World Cup.

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