Countdown to 2022 World Cup marred as labour abuse triples in Qatar

Construction boom tied to FIFA event has pushed abuses including deaths higher

FILE PHOTO: A man takes a picture of the tournament's official logo for the 2022 Qatar World Cup as displayed on the wall of amphitheater, in Doha, Qatar, September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoun/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Qatar began the two-year countdown to the 2022 World Cup on Friday as new figures revealed that worker abuses at its construction sites had tripled from two years ago.

A record figure for 2020 is already guaranteed with 29 incidents logged for the year so far, up from 28 in the whole of last year and a massive jump from the nine recorded in 2018.

Figures compiled in an independent report said a total of 76 abuse cases had occurred in the last five years, resulting in 18 deaths in eight separate cases.

The accusation that the World Cup is fuelling the increased threats to Qatar's labour force is underlined by the rise in cases as the tournament looms. A construction spree is underway in Doha to prepare for an influx of visitors for the tournament.

Eight stadiums are under construction in Qatar for the one-of-a-kind November staging of the World Cup in 2022. The tournament is usually held during the northern hemisphere summer. There are three, Khalifa International, Al Janoub and Education City, already built. Another three, Al Rayyan, Al Bayt and Al Thumama, are almost complete. And the last two, Ras Abu Aboud and Lusail, are still works in progress.

Isobel Archer, Gulf project officer of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said the country had failed to safeguard workers involved in one of the biggest global construction projects.

“What’s concerning is that these are only the allegations reported by NGOs and the media and therefore just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "The numbers clearly suggest that migrant workers in many sectors remain at risk of suffering serious abuses in the run-up to the World Cup.

“Since 2016, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has tracked a total of 76 allegations of labour abuse against migrant workers in Qatar, affecting at least 11,842 workers – 75% of these allegations were made in 2019 and 2020."

Vani Saraswathi, the director of Migrant Rights, said the data pointed to a failure to deliver on promises of reform that were made as part of the victorious World Cup bid. "Absconding laws will continue to be tools of control and manipulation in the hands of unethical employers," he said. "Similarly, as long as migrants do not have the ability to renew their own residence visas, the employer's stranglehold over them will continue. Until such a time these issues are meaningfully addressed, migrants will continue to be victims of forced labour.”