Jordanian ex-soldiers to return from Qatar after World Cup salary dispute

Six thousand ex-Jordanian military were hired for security jobs during Qatar 2022 tournament

The Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Ex-military personnel form Jordan were to be paid $5,000 for three months of work as security guards. AFP
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Jordanian former soldiers hired by Qatar for security jobs during the World Cup have started to return home after a salary dispute, state media in Jordan said on Sunday.

The issue has prompted public concern in Jordan after a Jordanian middle man reportedly made an exorbitant commission on the three-month contracts for the 6,000 ex-military personnel.

This reportedly resulted in sharply lower remuneration for the ex-soldiers. They are being sent back after some of them staged a protest in Qatar last week, having found out that they were being paid far less than other nationalities.

Official Jordanian television said that the former soldiers started returning on Friday — after less than a month on the job — after Qatar gave each of them $1,500. The television said all will have returned this week.

We felt that it was humiliating for someone to make a 300 per cent commission on us
Jordanian security guard in Qatar

The report did not say how many were still in Qatar but said 6,000 Jordanians in total, all ex-military, had been contracted to do security and guard duty work.

The TV quoted an unnamed source as saying that “the crisis is over”.

Qatar is keen to project smooth preparations before the World Cup, the first in an Arab country. The tournament runs from November 20 to December 18.

Living standards of ex-soldiers in Jordan, particularly among the lower ranks, are a sensitive issue, with repeated protests in Jordan by the ex-military about what they regard as meagre support in their retirement. Two years ago their retirement salaries were raised and the protests subsided.

The official unemployment rate in Jordan is at a record high of 23 per cent. Inflation is running at 5.8 per cent, the highest for more than four years.

One Jordanian retiree in Qatar contacted by The National confirmed that the ex-soldiers have started returning. He said that he and 25 members of his clan, who are from north Jordan, are due to fly home on Tuesday.

“We felt that it was humiliating for someone to make a 300 per cent commission on us,” he said from Qatar.

He and the other Jordanians started their jobs in Qatar on October 1, after signing a three-month contract, under which they were supposed to receive $5,000.

Soon after starting the job they realised that personnel from Pakistan and other countries were receiving $16,000 to $21,000 for doing the same job, he said.

“The difference went to the middle man,” the ex-soldier said.

Video broadcast by pro-government media in Jordan purported to show a crowd of the Jordanian personal marching last week in a street in Qatar and shouting “thief, thief!” in reference to the unnamed middle man.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sinan Al Majali said the ministry is “confident” that the retirees “will obey the laws of the brotherly state of Qatar” until their return to Jordan.

A July advert for the security position in Qatar by Jordan's General Security Directorate said the positions would be open only to former soldiers under 45.

Jordan and Qatar normalised relations last year after two decades of often tense ties, marred by differences relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a lack of support from Qatar for Jordan's running for UN roles, as well as the schism between Doha and other Gulf states.

Many Jordanians, including those supportive of the authorities, expressed their displeasure at what happened to the ex-soldiers on social media, although some criticised their protest and said that they should not have complained because they had signed a contract for $5,000.

“Can the ex-soldiers plight be considered a human trafficking case?,” former health minister Saad Al Kharabsheh said in tweet.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 10:09 AM