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Migrant workers jailed in Qatar over demands for owed wages

  • Published on
    May 26, 2023
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    Debt Bondage
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Five months on from the World Cup final, migrant workers continue to report exploitative labor practices and mistreatment at the hands of Qatari authorities. Three former security guards have been jailed in Qatar for four months following their repeated requests for unpaid wages from their employer, Stark Security Services.

Though lauded by FIFA as an opportunity to improve Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, workers who toiled to make the world’s largest sporting tournament happen continue to report how the World Cup has not in reality changed things for the better.

Early contract termination

Shakir Ullah, Zafar Iqbal, and another colleague were amongst hundreds of security guards laid off before the end of their contract after the World Cup final. They were then detained after demanding their owed wages following early termination of their contracts. The three men have reportedly been sentenced to six months in prison and fined 10,000 riyals ($2,744) each.

Early termination of contracts can have a devastating impact on often low-paid migrant workers who accrue huge debts in order to secure employment in Qatar. Unable to pay these debts off, workers are at risk of exploitation and threats from lenders. 

Mustafa Qadri, director of human and labor rights organization Equidem, said “This is the true cost of Fifa’s reckless disregard for the rights of people who help them generate huge profits”.

Jacob and Patrick (not their real names) are two other former security guards from Kenya who experienced similar treatment and were informed they were laid off as soon as the last whistle blew in the World Cup final.

Pete Pattisson, Imran Mukhtar and Praveen Yadav write in the Guardian:

They say the message came as a shock, because their contracts still had three months left to run. They were then instructed to collect their final salary for the days they had worked in December and leave their accommodation.

Just days after the final they suddenly found themselves jobless and homeless. “When they needed you, they treated you well, but now they are done with you, you are nothing to them,” said Jacob.

“We have not failed you in any way”

These workers were not only treated as disposable once the tournament came to an end but are now being punished for asking for what is owed to them. Jacob, Patrick and seven others interviewed by the Guardian believed that they would be employed for six months as per what was stated in their employment contracts.

Jacob, Patrick and hundreds of other security guards tried to negotiate with their employer Stark Security in order to receive the wages they had anticipated but were met with hostility. Stark Security even ordered the labor camp to stop serving them food.

Jacob explained to the Guardian:

“We told them: we’re still willing to work,” said Jacob. “We have not failed you in any way, we have not committed any crime; if you wish to stop [employing] us, you have to compensate us for these three remaining months.”

Hundreds of workers were reportedly taken to a detention centre with over 200 workers allegedly deported.

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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