Human rights activists have called on FIFA to prevent “systematic and structural” abuses of private security workers in Qatar ahead of the World Cup finals, which begin in November.
Amnesty International’s 74-page report on the welfare of employees in the industry, They Think That We’re Machines, supports abusive practices including overwork, lack of rest days, punitive fines and racial discrimination, which the organization claims equate to forced labor.
Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said: “With the World Cup just a few months away, FIFA must focus on doing more to prevent abuses in the inherently dangerous private security sector or see the tournament further ruined by abuse.
“More generally, FIFA must also use its leverage to put pressure on Qatar to better implement its reforms and enforce its laws. Time is running out quickly: if no best practices are established now, the abuse will continue long after the fans have returned home. “
The study surveyed 34 migrant workers employed by eight private security companies providing services for sites including government ministries and football stadiums, as well as other essential infrastructure projects for the World Cup, such as hotels, transportation systems and sports facilities, including April 2021 and February 2022. At least three of the companies have provided security for the recent FIFA tournaments.
IFifa stated that “it does not accept any abuse of workers by the companies involved in the preparation and delivery of the World Cup.
Following the inspections during the Club World Cup and the Arab Cup, contractors who did not meet the required standards were identified and the problems encountered were resolved on the spot. “
World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee on Delivery and Inheritance (SC), said: “Unfortunately, three clubs were found to be non-compliant in a number of areas during the 2020 Club World Cup and the Cup. Arab 2021. These violations were completely unacceptable and led to the application of a series of measures “.
The CS added that it “is committed to protecting the health, safety and security of any worker engaged in official World Cup projects”.
Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, many of them from Uganda, Kenya, Bangladesh and Pakistan, flocked to Qatar after winning the 2022 World Cup finals, with official mid-2021 figures putting the total at 2. 1 million and increasing.
Despite government intervention to address the cafala system, which, inter alia, prevented workers from changing jobs without the consent of the employer and from raising the minimum wage for all, the Amnesty report details the ongoing issues.
Respondents, whose identities have been protected, reported in some cases that they were forced to work 84 hours a week when Qatar’s labor law mandates a maximum of 60, with others forced to complete 16-hour double shifts. . The legislation guarantees a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Riyals (approximately £ 210), which equates to an hourly rate of £ 1.01 for a 48-hour, six-day week.
But 29 of the respondents said they worked regularly 12 hours a day and 28 said they were regularly denied a weekly day off – a Bangladeshi security guard reported not having had a day off in three years – with some employers who did not pay the required rate for overtime and prohibitive reductions or even expulsion for non-compliance.
One worker said he was fined 500 Riyals – half of his basic monthly salary – for not putting on his shirt correctly after using the bathroom. Additionally, some of those who spoke to Amnesty reported living in sub-standard housing and said alleged racial discrimination was widespread with different pay rates for different nationalities and those in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. southerners often endured the toughest conditions.
Amnesty, which began its research in 2017, confirmed that the Qatari government and Fifa, in tandem with CS, have moved to improve conditions for workers, but urged all parties to do more.
Cockburn said: Employers are still exploiting their workers in plain sight and Qatari authorities need to take urgent measures to protect workers and hold abusers accountable. Many of the security guards we spoke to knew their employers were breaking the law, but felt powerless to challenge them.
“Physically and emotionally exhausted, workers continued to report to duty under the threat of fines or, worse, contract termination or expulsion. Despite the progress made by Qatar in recent years, our research suggests that abuses in the private security sector – which will be increasingly sought after during the World Cup – remain systematic and structural. “
The Qatari Ministry of Labor said the Amnesty report “selectively highlights a small number of cases where violations persist and ignores the positive impact of Qatari reforms on the entire population.
“Qatar has taken immediate action to remedy individual cases of wrongdoing, but these cases do not represent a fundamental flaw in the robust work system currently in place.
“The prevalence of companies violating the rules is and will continue to decline as enforcement measures take hold and compliance increases among employers. Qatar has repeatedly stated that reforming the system is a long-term process and changing the behavior of every company takes time ”.