Wednesday 13 December 2017

Amnesty alleges 'forced labour' abuse at Qatar World Cup venue

Workers pictured in May last year at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (AP)
Workers pictured in May last year at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (AP)

Migrant workers faced abuse that in some cases amounted to forced labour while working on a stadium that will host football matches for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Amnesty International alleged.

Rights groups and news organisations have previously raised serious concerns about working conditions in Qatar, but the new Amnesty report stands out because it links alleged mistreatment directly to work on a World Cup venue.

The group's findings will intensify pressure on Qatar to accelerate labour reforms as the tiny and immensely rich Gulf country races to transform itself with sweeping infrastructure projects ahead of the games.

Amnesty compiled the 52-page report based on interviews from February to May last year with 132 construction workers at the Khalifa International Stadium, one of several arenas that will host World Cup matches.

The London-based group also interviewed 99 migrants doing landscaping work in a surrounding sports complex that is not directly related to the games, and three other gardeners working elsewhere.

Foreigners account for roughly 90% of the 2.5 million people living in Qatar, many of them low-paid migrant workers from South Asia. Most of the workers interviewed in the Amnesty report were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

All of those interviewed reported some kind of abuse, including squalid or crowded living quarters, salary payments being withheld for months, and measures including passport confiscation that make it difficult to leave the country.

Migrant workers elsewhere in Qatar have reported similar problems in the past.

Many in the Amnesty report said their sponsoring employer failed to obtain or renew their work permits, leaving them subject to fines and detention.

The report's most damning findings centre on what Amnesty says is evidence of forced labour involving workers employed on the refurbishment of the Khalifa stadium, a venue first built in the 1970s that is being overhauled to host World Cup matches.

The allegations involve workers employed by at least one small labour supply company contracted to provide manpower on the stadium project.

The report includes comments from five workers who described being forced to work against their will after trying to leave or refusing to work because of pay disputes.

Press Association

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