The London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has published a report that highlights ‘deplorable’ living and working conditions experienced by migrant workers while in Qatar.
The BHRRC has interviewed 78 workers, including 20 employed by official Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup contractors and 17 who worked at World Cup stadia and other official FIFA venues during the tournament, which yielded a US$7.5bn (£6bn) profit for FIFA.
According to the workers’ testimony, exploitative recruitment practices were rife: 93% said they paid illegal or extortionate amounts to obtain work and two-thirds were indebted to banks, family and friends to cover the cost.
Migrant workers were also forced to endure appalling working conditions. Fifty-eight of the 78 interviewed reported wage theft, 36 of the 69 who worked overtime were not paid for it, 45 found themselves on different contracts than originally promised and 27 were paid lower wages than had been agreed.
Despite key labour law reforms in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, including the abolition of the exploitative Kafala system, implementation has been inconsistent and promised improvements for migrant workers have remained minimal, said BHRRC.
The workers which BHRRC interviewed said they were not able to change jobs freely and many reported they could not raise grievances for fear of reprisals from their employers. Nearly half (43%) of those who did raise grievances experienced retaliation, which included terminations, detentions and deportations. Only 11 workers were aware of FIFA’s Human Rights Grievance Mechanism, and none reported knowing anyone who had used it.
BHRRC says the testimony published in its report shows that companies systematically failed to engage directly with workers to understand and mitigate the risks they were facing.
Larger companies, including multinational brands and even those partially or wholly government-owned, failed to conduct rigorous checks to stamp out labour rights abuse from their supply chains, with less than 20% of workers interviewed asked about working conditions during such assessments
Isobel Archer, senior researcher for labour & migrant worker rights at BHRRC, said: “FIFA claimed the Qatar World Cup 2022 would drive improvements for migrant workers’ rights in the country – but workers have detailed their daily experiences in Doha during the tournament and they are deeply concerning. While FIFA earned a record-breaking US$7.5bn from the World Cup, many migrant workers who toiled to make the tournament a success were unable to earn enough money to even pay off the debts they incurred to get their jobs.
“There can be no excuse for the companies which profited from migrant labour exploitation not to learn from what happened in Qatar. Despite promised reforms, companies – multinational and local alike – continue to fail the migrant workforce they depend on. They must implement meaningful, worker-centric due diligence to find out how employees in their workplaces and supply chains are being treated.
“At the very least, as they look to the next men’s World Cup in 2026, FIFA, football associations, multinationals and local contractors must right the wrongs of 2022 and commit to funding remedy for abuse that took place on their watch and during their tournament.”
Last year, Amnesty International said that FIFA should set aside at least US$440m for a compensation fund for migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the World Cup.
In a response to the BHRRC report, FIFA issued a statement saying that it had “taken note of the information collected by the BHRRC and its partners on human and labor rights in the context of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
“In line with FIFA’s human rights policy and article 3 of the FIFA statutes, FIFA is firmly committed to uphold and promote internationally recognised human and labour rights standards for all workers involved in the FIFA World Cup 2022.”