Migrant workers are more in demand than ever in Qatar’s luxury hotels ahead of the World Cup in November. As the hospitality sector scrambles to hire enough staff, a new report warns of the risk that the football tournament could leave workers in serious debt – one of the main drivers of exploitation.
Major hotel brands are failing to adequately protect their staff from this risk, the report claims.
Recruitment fees as the largest driver of abuse
The Wake-Up Call report, from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, raises concerns about the systematic charging of recruitment fees. Workers may not be employed for long enough to earn enough money to pay back their debts, leaving them extremely vulnerable.
The report, quoted in i, states:
Research has shown the payment of recruitment fees by migrant workers to be one of the region’s single largest drivers of abuse. Despite prohibition of recruitment fees under Qatari labour law, migrant workers commonly pay the equivalent of up to one year’s salary to secure work – whether formally to hotel brands’ business partners, human resources consultants, or informally to friends and contacts who get them an interview.
Where companies do not recognise their responsibility to cover these costs, workers lack some of the most basic protections against exploitation and are often left struggling financially; in the worst cases they have been driven to suicide under the pressure of debt and low wages.
Which hotel chains are most committed to transparency?
Only two of the 14 major hotel firms surveyed were “unequivocally committed [to] disclosing information on recruitment risks identified during the preparations for and during the World Cup, including how many workers were discovered to have paid fees, how much they paid and how much was reimbursed within six months of the risks being identified.” Those firms were Four Seasons and Radisson. Other brands, including Hilton and Marriot, did not commit.
Join the movement
The Freedom United community has been urging the Qatari government to make urgent and lasting changes to ensure overseas workers are protected from exploitation. In light of the upcoming World Cup, we know thousands more workers will be put at risk if the government doesn’t take action now. Join us in calling for immediate and substantive reforms: sign this petition today.