Ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Doha’s luxury hotels are expanding their workforce, hiring mainly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Africa. The hospitality sector is set to profit significantly from the sporting event, but will it protect the migrant workers making it all possible?
In an opinion piece for Newsweek, Isobel Archer, Gulf Program Manager of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, presents the current state of play regarding migrant worker protection in the Qatari hotel sector.
Will exploitation be the legacy of the World Cup?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic upheaval the world over, majorly curtailing livelihood opportunities. Agencies in labor-sending countries continue to take advantage of people’s desperation for employment by indebting workers with exorbitant, and often illegal, recruitment fees. Employers in host countries are often complicit in this exploitation by failing to conduct due diligence on labor suppliers.
In Newsweek, Archer explains:
With multiple cases coming to light, it is clear debt and exploitation will be the legacy of the World Cup unless urgent action is taken by luxury hotel brands. Many migrant workers are likely to be recruited for a relatively short period of time and after the tournament will be surplus to requirements—meaning if they do pay a recruitment fee, they are unlikely to even stay long enough to pay it off. Our research revealed hotels are far from tackling the issue of unfair recruitment head on and only a minority have a true understanding of the severe risk of labor abuse associated with recruitment fees. Even fewer are proactively safeguarding workers or prepared to remedy fees in full when workers are found to have paid them.
Global hotel brands fail to demonstrate sufficient due diligence
A Business & Human Rights Resource Centre report paints a stark picture of migrant worker protection in Qatar’s hotels. The report, which was published in July, reveals the results of a survey of 11 of the largest global hotel brands with establishments in Qatar. It found that only a small minority of these brands were taking proactive steps to identify and mitigate recruitment risks.
Many of the surveyed hotel brands claimed a commitment to the ‘Employer Pays Principle’. Nevertheless, only two brands were able to demonstrate the existence of policies that comply with the principle. Moreover, only three brands said they carried out routine interviews with employees to check if they had been charged recruitment fees.
On the other hand, interviews with 18 current and past employees of Qatar-based hotels revealed that eight had paid recruitment fees ranging between $500 and $2,360. Several mentioned having to take out high-interest loans as a result. None of these people had been repaid by their employer.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre urges hotels to take action
Archer sends a clear call to action to hotel brands:
Doha, Qatari hotels, FIFA […] must ensure that paper commitments to the Employer Pays Principle and tackling unfair recruitment are backed up by rigorous checks and robust due diligence so the workers central to the success of this event are not left burdened with the financial and emotional toll of obtaining employment.
Join the Freedom United campaign to end forced labor in Qatar
The Freedom United community has been campaigning to end forced labor in Qatar – and we need your voice! We’re calling for the government to introduce and enforce penalties against contract substitution and document confiscation, as well as to enable workers to change employers and leave the country freely.
Together we can push for an end to the exploitation of migrant workers – sign the petition today.