According to a report released Thursday by Amnesty International, security guards in Qatar, including some working on projects related to this year’s World Cup, are subject to working conditions “equivalent to forced labor”.
Based on interviews with 34 current and former security guards, all of whom are migrant workers, the report states that employees of eight different private companies were routinely forced to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and sometimes worked for years without a day off.
Nonetheless, Qatari law states that regular working hours should not exceed eight hours a day and that workers should receive a regular day off on the weekend.
“Many of the security guards we spoke to knew their employers were breaking the law, but felt unable to challenge them,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice.
“Physically and emotionally exhausted, workers continued to report to duty under the threat of fines or worse, contract termination or expulsion.”
But the Amnesty report says that the SC and world football governing body FIFA did not conduct “proper due diligence” before handing the World Cup to private companies.
Workers interviewed in the report, who were not nominated by Amnesty to protect them from reprisals, said they were denied mandatory rest days and were financially penalized for apparent transgressions such as not wearing uniforms properly or leaving their jobs. for a bathroom break.
The report also detailed how workers were deployed outside in intense heat with allegedly no shelter or clean water, how their housing was overcrowded and unsanitary, and how employees were subject to racial stereotypes.
“They say, ‘You are African, you can work 12 hours because you are strong,'” said one worker in the report.
The World Cup kicks off on November 21 with matches taking place in eight newly built stadiums across Qatar.
The detailed findings in Amnesty’s latest report are not unprecedented. Over the past decade, several human rights organizations have claimed that thousands of workers involved in building stadiums and infrastructure projects in Qatar have been subject to labor exploitation and human rights violations.
Qatar officials have strongly contested allegations of labor rights violations, and the country has recently implemented policies to reform its work structure, which include the dismantling of its state sponsorship system, known as kafala, and the introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage of $ 275 per month that applies to migrant and domestic workers.
Responding to Amnesty’s report, the SC said it “takes every possible measure to ensure that the workers in our projects are protected and their rights are respected.”
He also said three companies were found not to meet its worker welfare standards “in different areas” during the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup.
“These violations were completely unacceptable and led to the application of a number of measures, including placing contractors on a checklist or blacklist to prevent them from working on future projects – including the FIFA World Cup – before reporting such contractors to the Minister of Labor [MoL] for further investigation and punitive action, “the SC said in a statement.
He added that, to date, 391 contractors have been reported to the MoL and that 50 have been blocked by the MoL from being deployed on SC projects.
In a statement sent to CNN, FIFA said it “does not accept any abuse of workers by companies involved in the preparation and delivery of the 2022 FIFA World Cup”.
He said a “robust pre- and post-procurement audit and enforcement system” has been put in place for construction sites and companies providing World Cup services.
“We see a good level of commitment and collaboration from many service companies and the program has already had tangible benefits for thousands of workers,” added the FIFA statement.
“At the same time, we refuse to work with companies that do not show commitment to live up to the standards of the FIFA World Cup and we do not hesitate to take strong measures against such companies in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor.”
CNN’s Amanda Davies contributed to the report.