Treatment of World Cup migrant workers in Qatar is a shameful abuse of rights

Qatar and FIFA should be ashamed of the abuse of migrant workers currently taking place in the name of the 2022 World Cup, says Unite Legal Services following a recent delegation visit made by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey with the Building Workers’ International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 

While the cost of building work for the World Cup in the oil and gas rich state is likely to amount to more than £100 billion, organisers are failing to enforce basic conditions for their construction workers. In labour camps – described as akin to “shanty towns” by the general secretary – immigrant workers are squeezed in eight or 10 to a room in contravention of the law which stipulates a maximum of four beds. Many also have to use unsanitary washing and cooking facilities.

Workers are lured to Qatar with the promise of a decent pay and good conditions, but this is in stark contrast to the harsh reality they face. The ‘kafala’ system of worker sponsorship requires immigrant workers to get consent from their employer to secure basic privileges, such as to open a bank account, apply for a driving license, or rent a private room. Working under this system, exploitative sub-contractors even take away workers’ passports so they cannot leave unless they are given special permission.

Commenting on the treatment of World Cup workers, Howard Beckett, director of Unite Legal Services, said: “For one of the world’s richest countries to be building the 2022 World Cup on the back of exploited immigrants is nothing but shameful. Concerns over the treatment of workers have been growing for years and FIFA should by now have been able to exert enough pressure on Qatar to turn the situation around. FIFA’s stated “ongoing respect for human rights” is laughable given the clear abuses taking place under its watch.

“The ITUC has estimated that up to 4,000 immigrant workers, including those working on world cup sites, could die before 2022. Unite, and other organisations in the UK and around the world, must continue to expose this exploitation and insist that Qatar be stripped of the privilege of hosting the competition if it cannot demonstrate a real commitment to workers’ rights.”

Click here to see a video of Qatar workers’ living conditions on the Mirror Online.