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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Human rights group hits out as Kenny brushes off World Cup worker concerns

Donal O'Donovan and Clodagh Sheehy

AMNESTY Ireland has expressed "very grave concern" after Taoiseach Enda Kenny appeared to shrug off concerns about low-paid migrant workers being brought into Qatar to build football stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

During his trade visit to the Middle East the Taoiseach said "my assumption is that those who work internationally on such projects would have proper working conditions and proper facilities and I expect that to be the way".

International labour groups have warned that much of the construction is being carried out by an army of low paid and sometimes badly treated migrant workers from as far away as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.


And Amnesty International report on Qatar's construction sector ahead of the World Cup says it has uncovered many cases where abuses amount to forced labour or human trafficking.

However, when questioned about the issues, Mr Kenny said he expected everything to be run properly.

"I met one of the project managers who is from Ireland, and who is in charge of building one of the six new stadia here in Doha. I think that the instinct here is that the stadia to be provided will be absolutely world class."

Reacting to the statement, Amnesty Ireland chief Colm O'Groman said he would be writing to the Taoiseach on his return from the Middle East. "I don't know what specific projects the Taoiseach was referring to but we published research in November about the conditions of these workers."

Mr O'Gorman said the research had found that a group of workers had not been paid for a year, their travel documents had been withdrawn, they had been threatened with imprisonment if they refused to work and they had been living in conditions that were "unsanitory and unsafe".

He said the workers had "no recourse to legal remedy" because to complain required money and they had not been paid.

The European Parliament last year passed a resolution condemning the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, and is sending a delegation to investigate the issue.

A visa system that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation is seen as one of the big problems.

The criticism has dogged the decision by FIFA, soccer's governing body, to award the 2022 tournament to Doha.

Irish architects, engineers and surveyors are flocking to the country for highly paid jobs overseeing exciting new projects.

But there is a dark side. Of the 1.8 million non-citizens living in Doha, few are well-paid expats enjoying the full fruits of the boom.

Last month Amnesty reported that more than 80 migrant construction workers in Qatar who worked for nearly a year without pay on a prestigious tower in Doha's financial district were facing food shortages and needed urgent government assistance.

Irish Independent

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