Foreign workers in Qatar are being kept in an “apartheid situation”, according to a new investigation into labour conditions, where they are “treated like animals” and forced to live in squalor.
The report, by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), is one of the most damning indictments of the FIFA World Cup 2022 host yet, describing the Gulf state as a “country without a conscience”.
Among the abuses alleged by the ITUC’s study into the oil and gas-rich country was that up to 38 foreign labourers at Qatar’s Al Wakrah Stadium being forced to share a single, squalid room. It also claimed that employers were demanding $275 to be paid by workers before they were allowed to leave for holidays, while more than 2,500 Indonesian maids were fleeing abusive sponsors annually.
The ITUC’s report featured numerous anonymous testimonies from Qatar’s community of 1.4m foreign workers from countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines.
The investigation called on World Cup organiser FIFA to pressure Qatari authorities to end the country’s kafala sponsorship system, which prevents workers from moving jobs without the permission of employers.
“Poor migrant workers living in squalor, are forced to work long hours in unbelievable heat six days a week. Kept in an apartheid situation they are dying in unprecedented numbers,” the report’s foreword read.
It also alleged that women and children in the country without male sponsors were often victims of abuse including rape, while foreign embassies were encouraged to keep quiet for fear of retaliation of authorities or disrupting remittance flows.
Qatar is facing heightened scrutiny and criticism for migrant workers’ rights in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup, where it is expected to spend up to $140bn on new infrastructure, including a metro, port and airport.
More than 450 Indians working in Qatar have died in the past two years, according to Indian government figures obtained by news wire AFP under right of information laws.
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