Migrant workers in Qatar continue to face serious exploitation, according to a new report by Amnesty International. With one year to go until the 2022 World Cup, the rights group is calling for Doha to roll out further labor reforms and enforce existing worker protection policies more consistently.
Qatari labor reforms: the state of play
After winning the bid to host next year’s international football tournament, Qatar came under fire for the prevalence of forced labor conditions among the migrant workers involved in building new infrastructure for the competition.
Last year, the government introduced new legislation to enable migrant workers to leave the country or change job without consent from their employer. Another reform established limitations on working hours for live-in workers.
However, Amnesty’s report claims that these new laws have not been enforced strongly enough to adequately address the problem. Exploitative practices, such as the withholding of salaries and benefits to make it more difficult for workers to change employers, are still common. Migrants who flee their employers are also still at risk of being charged for “absconding” or having their residence permits canceled.
Aisha’s story: threats and extortion
The report reveals real-life examples of the barriers faced by migrant workers even in light of last year’s reforms. The Independent summarizes one woman’s case:
[The report] quotes one female worker, Aisha, claiming she was threatened by her boss when she said she wanted to change jobs.
The woman was told she had to pay more than £1,000 [approximately $1,350] – five times her monthly salary – to obtain a no-objection certificate, the paperwork needed to switch employment, and was also threatened with deportation.
Aisha’s complaint about her boss was rejected by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs.
While the need for no-objection certificates has been abolished in law, organisations supporting migrant workers say failure to include a form of permission from the current boss seems to increase the chance of a transfer request being rejected.
Amnesty appeals to FIFA and David Beckham
Amnesty is now urging FIFA, the international governing body for football, to put pressure on Qatar to meet its labor reform commitments before the World Cup begins on November 21, 2022. The charity has also called on world-renowned footballer David Beckham to take a stand as a World Cup ambassador.
“By sending a clear signal that labour abuses will not be tolerated, penalising employers who break laws and protecting workers’ rights, Qatar can give us a tournament that we can all celebrate,” said Mark Dummett, Amnesty’s global issues program director. “The clock is ticking but it’s not too late to turn the ink on paper into real action.”
Join us in urging Qatar to take action before the World Cup
Freedom United is also calling for Qatar to live up to its promises on labor reforms and protect migrant workers from forced labor and exploitation. When the World Cup ends, migrants working in Qatar will likely receive less attention, so it is vital that we seize this present moment and call for immediate action. Join our call: sign this petition today.