The Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel is one of Qatar’s most opulent luxury hotels with its car parks lined with Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. Its royal suite even goes for more than £12,000 a night.
Yet the hotel in the world’s richest country is now coming under fire for labor abuses and debt bondage facing its workforce, from security guards, maids, and gardeners.
Related campaign: Help end forced labor in Qatar.
Most of the staff hail from South and Southeast Asia as well as west Africa, paying upwards of £3,160 in recruitment fees to get a job in Qatar.
However, based on 19 interviews with hotel employees, The Guardian has uncovered multiple allegations of breaches of Qatar’s labor laws, including payment below minimum wage.
Rafiq says he has tended the immaculate lawns surrounding the Marsa Malaz Kempinski for three years, but he has still not paid off the debt he incurred to reach Qatar.
When a recruitment agent in his own country offered him a job overseas, with a salary of £270 a month, it sounded too good to be true. It was, but Rafiq did not to find out until it was too late.
Like many migrant workers from his south Asian nation, Rafiq handed over £3,160 as a recruitment fee to the agent – three times the average annual income in his country.
But at the airport, just hours before departure, he was given a contract to sign, which offered a salary amounting to half of what he was originally promised.
“I had no option but to sign it,” says Rafiq. “I had already paid so much. We were forced to get on the flight.”
Rafiq’s basic salary is still just 600 Qatari riyals (£125), far below the minimum wage of 750 riyals introduced with great fanfare last November.
Marsa Malaz Kempsinki hires much of its staff through subcontractors, and says it takes the allegations of abuse seriously and has launched an investigation.
“We are committed to abiding by the highest ethical standards as an international luxury hotel operator. Equally, we expect all subcontracting companies to abide by these same standards,” said a hotel spokesman.
Bobbie Sta Maria from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre added that “Companies have a responsibility to respect all workers in their operations and supply chains, not just the ones they employ directly.”
“That means hotels should be using their leverage with subcontractors to ensure workers are treated fairly and not exploited.”