Amnesty International has accused Qatar of using forced labor during the construction of a FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium. The rights group has published a report which condemns FIFA for “failing almost completely” to stop the tournament being “built on human rights abuses”. Amnesty says workers at the Khalifa International Stadium have had their passports confiscated and their wages withheld, and are being forced to live in squalid accommodation. One of Amnesty’s main concerns surrounds the use of the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system, whereby migrant workers are unable to change jobs or leave the country without permission from their employer.
The findings will prove controversial because Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has made ensuring minimum standards are met on World Cup stadium projects a priority in the wake of widespread criticism of the broader conditions in which migrant labourers, who make up more than 90 per cent of Qatar’s 2.1 million population, live and work. For the first time, Amnesty said it had definitively identified mistreatment and abuses on a World Cup stadium site rather than on infrastructure projects that underpin Qatar’s ambitious 2030 Vision, of which the football tournament has become an integral part.
Qatar had pledged to reform the system, but Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty says the issue is yet to be resolved. “All workers want are their rights: to be paid on time, leave the country if need be and be treated with dignity and respect.” Amnesty conducted interviews with over 230 workers in and around the Khalifa sports complex from February to May last year. Everyone interviewed reported poor living conditions, abuse, withheld salaries or confiscation of passports. One worker told Amnesty he was threatened by his employer when he complained about not being paid for several months.
Last year the country pledged to makes changes to its “kafala” sponsorship system, under which migrant workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission.