Qatar world cup workers ‘treated like cattle’

View of the Khalifa football stadium on January 6, 2013 in Doha, Qatar.
Nadine Rupp | Getty Images

Qatar's construction sector is "rife with abuse", according to a new report, as the spotlight turns again on the appalling conditions of migrant workers employed to build the infrastructure for the 2022 soccer World Cup.

The report will be embarrassing for FIFA's president Sepp Blatter who claimed a week ago that the protection of workers' rights in Qatar was "on the right track".

Migrant workers suffer forced labor, non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions and "shocking" standards of accommodation, the Amnesty International report unveiled.

"It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world, that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive," Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a press release.

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FIFA president Blatter met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and was assured that the country would carry out a review of labor standards, according to the world soccer governing body.

"FIFA understands and shares Amnesty International's efforts towards social justice and respect of human rights and dignity which are very much anchored in the statutes and purpose of FIFA as an organisation," FIFA told CNBC in an e-mailed statement. "It is FIFA's aim that the host countries of our flagship event ensure healthy, safe and dignified working conditions for all - nationals and foreigners, including construction workers - involved in the preparation of the event. "

The report, based on interviews with workers, employers and government officials, claims that some workers suffered "severe psychological distress" and were on the brink of suicide as they faced mounting debts and were unable to support their families back home.

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While the report documents Qatar's construction sector as a whole, it also found that Nepalese workers involved in the building of the planned FIFA headquarters for the 2022 World Cup, were subject to labor abuses. Nepalese workers told Amnesty that they were "treated like cattle" having to work up to 12 hours a day and seven days a week, including during Qatar's hot summer months.

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"Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup," said Shetty.

The human rights group is calling for an urgent reform of the so called "kafala" sponsorship system, which leaves migrant workers unable to leave the country or change jobs without their employers' permission.

But Qatar has sought to dampen controversy over conditions for workers by unveiling the first stadium design for the soccer tournament and last month announced a review of labor standards. The government is reviewing proposals to modify the sponsorship system, according to Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 supreme committee.

Amnesty's report entitled "The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's construction sector ahead of the World Cup", was based on interviews with around 210 migrant workers in the construction sector during two visits to Qatar in October 2022 and March 2013.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal