Migrant workers from West Africa say they have been left stranded, destitute, and jobless in Qatar just 100 days after the end of the World Cup, despite claims that the tournament would leave a legacy of better workers’ rights in the country.
Many of the affected workers appear to come from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Niger. Some of the men interviewed by the Guardian said they have been out of work for months; some can barely afford to eat. Others are so short of money they have been forced to plead for help from their impoverished families back home.
Migrant workers left indebted
Many workers were duped into paying vast sums to enter Qatar on Hayya cards, the permit required to visit the country during the World Cup. While predatory recruitment agents advertised that Hayya cards could be converted into work visas on arrival, the card can only be used for tourism, leaving victims deep in debt, unable to legally work, and struggling to return home.
Qatar has faced severe criticism for the abusive conditions endured by many low-paid workers in the country, including wage theft, illegal recruitment fees, and injuries and death while building stadiums and infrastructure. These harsh living and working conditions are in contrast to promises by Qatari authorities and FIFA, who repeatedly promised the tournament would become a catalyst for change in workers’ rights.
There is also an issue with workers on “free visas” entering the country on a work visa under a local sponsor, but then being forced to find their own jobs. The scheme is illegal but highly lucrative for the sponsors, who secure the visas, and for agents who sell them to young men in labour-sending countries desperate for work. While these visas offer workers the flexibility to choose their own jobs and negotiate higher wages, they also leave workers in a more precarious position.
Qatar’s international media office said it is illegal for companies in Qatar to charge recruitment fees and the government works closely with the business community to ensure compliance. Qatar has opened 14 visa centres in labour-sending countries and the government punishes recruitment agencies or sponsors involved in schemes after being notified.
Since the end of the tournament, the job market appears to have collapsed. Now, many workers find themselves trapped, unable to survive without work but reluctant to return home before paying off their debts. Others cannot afford to renew their visa or pay for an ID card, so live under the constant threat of arrest and deportation.
With the World Cup over, we must keep up the pressure on Qatar to ensure migrant workers are protected from exploitation and abusive work practices. Sign the petition today.