Qatar: Abuse of migrant workers remains widespread as World Cup stadium hosts first match

Migrant workers on Qatar 2022 World Cup construction sites continue to suffer abuse and exploitation, Amnesty International said today as the country’s flagship football venue hosts the first match since its redevelopment.

Companies involved in the renovation of Khalifa International Stadium subjected their workers to systematic labour abuse which Amnesty International exposed last year. The stadium will be inaugurated on Friday evening – one month after independent auditors published fresh details of ongoing exploitation of migrant workers across World Cup projects.

“It’s a year since Amnesty International exposed the exploitation of migrant workers who helped to build the Khalifa Stadium, but abuses on Qatar 2022 sites have continued,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme.

“Qatar’s World Cup organizers have placed special requirements on contractors that are supposed to stop this happening, but the reality is that workers on their sites still live under Qatar’s repressive sponsorship system, which gives employers powerful tools to abuse them.

“With hundreds of thousands more people being recruited to build and service at least seven more World Cup stadiums, along with the infrastructure to support the tournament, many more migrant workers are at serious risk over the next five years.”

Amnesty International’s 2016 report The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on a Qatar 2022 Site, highlighted how migrant workers were exploited at the Khalifa Stadium.

An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup.

Amnesty International's James Lynch

Many of those interviewed revealed they were heavily in debt after paying large recruitment fees, while others had their passports confiscated and some were subjected to forced labour.

Findings published last month by an independent auditor, Impactt Ltd, showed that abuse continues despite FIFA’s ongoing attempts to airbrush the tournament’s image.

“Migrant workers at Khalifa International Stadium have already suffered the consequences of Qatar and FIFA’s failure to genuinely address the dangers of Qatar’s sponsorship system. An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup,” said James Lynch.

The recent audit, which focused on 10 randomly selected contractors (out of a total 149 World Cup contractors), mirrored many findings from Amnesty International’s investigation. A range of abuses on World Cup projects were identified, including:
• 79% of workers reported paying recruitment fees.
• Contractors making workers work excessive hours, with half not giving them rest days, including one person who worked continuously without a day off for almost five months (148 days).
• 25% of workers at one company said they felt unable to report health and safety concerns for fear of reprisal.
• Four of the 10 contractors surveyed were holding worker’s passports, which is potentially an offence under Qatari law.

The auditors assessed that some progress was being made, but abuses were identified at all 10 contractors sampled.

The Khalifa Stadium will become the first World Cup venue to open when it hosts the Emir Cup final between local sides Al Rayyan and Al Sadd on Friday.