According to Amnesty International, security guards in Qatar work under conditions that amount to forced labor, including on projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In a new 73-page report – They think we are machines – Released Thursday, Amnesty International documented the experiences of 34 current or former employees of eight private security companies in Qatar.
The main conclusions of the report were as follows:
- According to Amnesty International, security guards in Qatar work under conditions that amount to forced labor, including on projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
- Amnesty has also documented discrimination based on race, national origin and language.
- Fifteen guards interviewed by Amnesty International were regularly outdoors during extreme heat, including during the summer months when outdoor work is considered limited and, in some cases, without shelter or drinking water.
- Key legal reforms aimed at resolving labor issues are being implemented inefficiently.
The 34 workers were hired by eight different private companies that maintained facilities such as ministries and football stadiums, as well as other important infrastructure projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, such as hotels, transportation systems and sports facilities. At least three companies have provided security for recent FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA Arab Cup.
Qatari laws and regulations limit working hours per week to a maximum of 60 hours, including overtime, with workers entitled to one full day of paid rest each week. This is in line with international law and standards – rest is one of the fundamental human rights. Despite this, 29 of the 34 guards interviewed by Amnesty said they regularly worked 12-hour days, and 28 said they were regularly denied weekends, meaning many worked 84-hour days for several weeks.
The Amnesty report also showed that four of the companies mentioned in the report were still not paying overtime at the rate required by law, meaning that in some cases they were cheating guards out of eight days’ wages each month.
Amnesty International’s in-depth interviews with all 34 current or former guards, supervisors and guards between April 2021 and February 2022 are based on earlier interviews in 2017–2018 with 25 guards at a security company. The consistency of their accounts across multiple companies indicates that these breaches are systemic. In total, Qatar’s private security sector employs tens of thousands of migrant workers – a large workforce, often subject to considerable job pressure and, in some cases, very serious abuse.
Stephen Cockburn, economic and social justice specialist at Amnesty International, said: “Employers continue to exploit their workers in plain sight and the Qatari authorities must take urgent action to protect workers and hold those responsible to account.
“Many of the guards we spoke to knew their employers were breaking the law but felt powerless to challenge them.
“Physically and emotionally exhausted workers continued to report to work under the threat of financial sanctions or, worse, contract termination or exclusion.
“Despite the progress Qatar has made in recent years, our research shows that abuses in the private security sector, which will escalate during the World Cup, remain systematic and structural.
“With only a few months left before the World Cup, FIFA must focus on its efforts to prevent abuses in the inherently dangerous private security industry, otherwise the tournament will still be marred by abuses. More generally, FIFA should also use its influence to pressure Qatar to reform and abide by the law. Time is running out – unless best practices are implemented now, abuse will continue long after fans have returned home. »
Sky Sports News has contacted FIFA for a response.
Meanwhile, FIFA did not respond to Amnesty International’s allegations, instead referring Amnesty International to an earlier letter from them and reports from the Supreme Committee.