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FIFA & ILO silence over case of detained migrant worker

  • Published on
    June 19, 2023
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  • Category:
    Debt Bondage, Law & Policy
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Hundreds of migrant workers who were security guards during the 2022 Qatar World Cup have either been deported or detained following the abrupt termination of their work contracts which has left many indebted. Demands for their unpaid wages have been met with arrests and silence by FIFA and the ILO.

Shakir Ullah, one worker from Pakistan who requested unpaid wages on behalf of hundreds of his colleagues has spent around five months in a Qatari prison.

Hollow promises for migrant workers

The desperation of migrant workers in Qatar has increased due to the forceful termination of their contracts, which goes against Qatar’s labor law. For years, FIFA and Qatar have claimed that the World Cup would open to door to progress migrant workers’ welfare and labor rights and leave a “lasting legacy of better workers’ rights in the country”. These claims ring hollow for migrant workers who continue to face unfair deportation and imprisonment. 

Shakir Ullah is one of two Pakistani men who were arrested, charged, and imprisoned in January this year. Ullah had made an effort to claim unpaid wages on behalf of hundreds of other low-income migrant workers, particularly security guards working for Stark Security Services. 

The end of the 2022 World Cup came with the unceremonious firing of Ullah and his colleagues, leaving them homeless, destitute, and unable to fend for themselves and their families back at home. 

FIFA stated:

“Workers need to be free to raise their voices in line with their rights and freedoms under international standards and that due process must be guaranteed for anyone accused of wrongdoing.”

Yet, Ullah and two other men were put behind bars for demanding what they were owed. Ullah has reportedly been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with an additional fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,746). Failure to pay the hefty fine could extend his sentence. 

Abandoned in their distress 

Despite being aware of Ullah’s case, FIFA remains silent. Ullah is one of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who made the World Cup event a success.

The ILO has been a silent bystander too, despite its role in working closely with Qatar on labor reforms.

Pete Pattisson writes in the Observer:

Even those you might expect to speak up for Ullah have failed to do so. The office of the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) in Doha, which has worked closely with the Qataris on labour reforms for more than five years, has remained silent. It was informed about Ullah’s detention in February but has made no public statement about the case, only telling the Observer: “We are unable to provide information about [his] current status or the legal proceedings.”

Ullah’s future remains uncertain as FIFA, Qatar, the ILO, and even trade unions are failing to remedy the injustices he has faced.

No accountability for Qatar’s Minister of Labor

Qatar’s Minister of Labor, Ali Samikh al-Marri,  was nominated to preside over the ILO’s international labor conference this month in Geneva, advocating for improved global standards of migrant workers. Samikh Al Marri’s nomination is astounding amidst the continuation of migrant worker exploitation, detention, and deportation that continues to occur in Qatar.

Meanwhile, Ullah’s family continues to languish in desperation, unsure of when he will be set free.

Take action! 

The Freedom United community has been urgently calling on Qatari authorities and FIFA to commit to protecting migrant workers from exploitation and remedy human rights abuses endured as a result of the tournament.

Today, migrant workers in Qatar continue to face exploitation and mistreatment. Keep the momentum for justice going by signing the petition today.


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Karl Klapper
Karl Klapper
11 months ago

If you wish to reach people whom you have not reached before, I suggest not using acronyms in an article, unless you state fully what they stand for. Specifically, in this article, neither FIFA nor ILO is expanded. I cannot speak to whether these terms are understood broadly in other parts of the world, but I assure you that, in North America, they are virtually unknown.

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