Migrant workers including domestic workers continued to face a range of abuses, including wage theft, forced labour, exploitation and abuse despite reforms. Authorities repressed freedom of expression to silence critical voices. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice and needed the permission of a male guardian to study, travel or marry. Laws continued to discriminate against LGBTI people, putting them at risk of arrest and torture.
Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup between 20 November and 18 December.
In November, the European Parliament urged football’s international governing body FIFA and Qatar to compensate migrant workers and expand the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund to include all deaths and other abuses of human rights related to the preparations for the World Cup.
Despite the government’s ongoing efforts to reform its labour system, thousands of migrant workers continued to face labour abuses.1
In August, the government said that over 300,000 migrant workers had been allowed to change jobs without the permission of their employers since October 2020, when a reform was introduced. However, some migrant workers who applied to change jobs continued to face barriers or retaliatory measures by their employers, including charges filed against them for “absconding” or having their residence permits cancelled.
Migrant workers still commonly faced wage theft by employers, despite government attempts to address non-payment of wages, including by strengthening the monitoring system, setting up labour committees and operating a fund to expedite payment. In August, hundreds of workers protested in the capital Doha against their employers who owed them up to six months’ wages. They were arrested the same month en masse after which hundreds were finally paid their arrears and then deported to their home countries. After years of patchy operationalization, the state-run compensation fund is said to have paid out over USD 320 million for unpaid wages and benefits between October 2020 and September 2022. However, many workers entitled to payments were left out or received capped compensation.
The authorities continued to fail to investigate properly the deaths of migrant workers and hold employers or authorities accountable, precluding any assessment of whether the deaths were work-related and depriving families of the opportunity to receive compensation from the employer or authorities.
Domestic workers, most of whom are women, continued to face some of the harshest working conditions and abuses, including verbal, physical and sexual assault. The authorities failed to implement measures introduced in 2017 to protect them from labour abuses. Women domestic workers who managed to flee abusive employers lacked access to safe shelter. In October, the government reopened the Qatari House for Human Care shelter for victims of human trafficking, which had been closed since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the shelter could offer abused women much-needed refuge on a referral basis, it appeared not to be accessible on a walk-in basis.
The authorities continued to ban migrant workers from forming and joining trade unions, a right afforded to Qatari nationals.
Many migrant workers faced discrimination on the basis of race, nationality and language. For instance, security guards interviewed by Amnesty International said that management from their companies treat employees differently depending on their nationality, race and language, including in terms of their rate of pay and working conditions and locations.
Forced labour and other abuses
Forced labour and other abuses continued to be rampant, particularly in domestic work and the private security sector.
Amnesty International documented the working conditions of migrant workers across Qatar’s private security sector, including guards deployed at World Cup stadiums and various sporting tournaments.2 Guards interviewed spoke about the wide range of abuses they faced, including excessive working hours, lack of rest days, and arbitrary or disproportionate financial penalties, as well as underpayment of overtime work – conditions that amounted to forced labour. Many also highlighted their dangerous working conditions when deployed for long periods outside in searing heat, after which they returned to substandard living conditions and often insanitary, company-provided accommodation, frequently sleeping on bunk beds in overcrowded rooms. All workers described the impact of such treatment, including physical and psychological exhaustion, suffering and anguish. In August, Qatar’s Government Communication Office told Amnesty International that it had detected 230 “excessive working hours violations” between October 2021 and August 2022.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Authorities continued to curtail freedom of expression, using abusive laws to stifle critical voices.
On 10 May, the Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced brothers Hazza and Rashed bin Ali Abu Shurayda al-Marri, both lawyers, to life in prison for offences that included contesting laws ratified by the Emir, “threatening” the Emir on social media, compromising the independence of the state, organizing unauthorized public meetings, and “violating” social values online. Two other men were convicted in their absence of the same offences; one was sentenced to life imprisonment, the other to 15 years in prison.3
Authorities continued to repress press freedom by imposing restrictions on broadcasters, including banning them from filming in certain locations such as government buildings, hospitals, universities, migrant workers’ accommodation sites and private homes.
During the World Cup, football fans who showed their support for the popular uprising in Iran were harassed by security forces, including by having flags and banners confiscated.
Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Under the guardianship system, women still needed the permission of a male guardian, usually their husband, father, brother, grandfather or uncle, to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad if aged under 25 and access reproductive healthcare.
Family law discriminated against women, including by making it much more difficult for women than men to seek a divorce, and placing women at a severe economic disadvantage if they sought a divorce or if their husband left them.
While the country’s Family Law provides that women have the right to not be physically harmed by their husbands, women remained inadequately protected against domestic violence by others in the absence of a domestic violence law.
LGBTI people’s rights
Qatari laws continued to discriminate against LGBTI people. The Penal Code criminalizes a range of same-sex consensual sexual acts. Article 296(3) punishes with imprisonment anyone who “leads or induces or tempts a male, by any means, into committing an act of sodomy or debauchery”. Article 296(4) punishes with imprisonment anyone who “induces or tempts a male or female, by any means, into committing acts contrary to morals or that are unlawful”.
Activists reported that six people were arbitrarily arrested by security officials and tortured and otherwise ill-treated for their sexual orientation.
Despite vague reassurances given by the World Cup organizers that everyone would be welcome in Qatar, players were threatened with on-field sanctions if they wore pro-LGBTI rights armbands. Fans had rainbow items confiscated, and a few journalists were harassed for showing their support of LGBTI people.
Failure to tackle climate crisis
The government had still not announced a new NDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Qatar: Unfinished Business: What Qatar Must Do to Fulfil Promises on Migrant Workers’ Rights, 20 October
- Qatar: ‘They Think That We’re Machines’: Forced Labour and Other Abuse of Migrant Workers in Qatar’s Private Security Sector, 7 April
- “Qatar: Further information: Two Qatari lawyers handed life sentences: Hazza and Rashed bin Ali Abu Shurayda al-Marri”, 16 May