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Forced labor at Qatar World Cup sites: Amnesty

Matthew Ashton - AMA | Getty Images Europe | Getty Images

Migrant workers building a stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar "have suffered systematic abuses, in some cases forced labor," a new report from Amnesty International claims.

The report, titled "The ugly side of the beautiful game: Exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup site", paints a damning picture of conditions for migrant laborers.

Alleged abuses include the non-payment of wages for several months; "squalid and cramped" accommodation; and workers being threatened for making complaints about their conditions.


"The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International secretary general, said in a news release.

"For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare," Shetty added.

"Despite five years of promises, FIFA has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses," Shetty went on to say.

Qatar is set to be the first Middle Eastern nation to host the FIFA World Cup – the biggest international tournament in soccer — in six years' time.

However, both its bid to host the tournament and alleged treatment of workers on related building projects have been mired in controversy.

Amnesty's most recent report is based on interviews with 132 migrants involved in the rebuilding of Khalifa stadium, which will host matches during the tournament. The organisation also spoke to 99 workers involved in the landscaping of green spaces in the Aspire Zone complex.

One worker from Nepal described his life in Qatar as "like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun."

Another worker, from India, described receiving threats from his employer after complaining about not being paid.

"He just shouted abuse at me and said that if I complained again I'd never leave the country," Nabeel, whose name was changed to protect his identity, said.

"Ever since I have been careful not to complain about my salary or anything else. Of course, if I could I would change jobs or leave Qatar."

Amnesty called on football's world governing body, FIFA, to put pressure on Qatar to publish a "comprehensive reform plan" ahead of construction peaking in the middle of next year.

On Thursday, FIFA released a statement in response to the report, saying it was "fully aware of the risks facing construction workers in Qatar and of the opportunity that FIFA, together with other stakeholders, has to facilitate the improvement of working conditions in the country."

While acknowledging challenges remained, FIFA said it was confident "the structures and processes set-up so far by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is the entity responsible for the delivery of FIFA World Cup infrastructure, provide a good basis to monitor labor rights of migrant workers on FIFA World Cup stadium construction sites."

For its part, Qatar's SC said it was "committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of every worker on FIFA World Cup projects."

The SC said it had maintained a constructive working relationship with labour organisations, including Amnesty International, and that the conditions reported "were not representative of the entire work force on Khalifa."

"We have always maintained this FIFA World Cup will act as a catalyst for change – it will not be built on the back of exploited workers," the SC went on to add. "We wholly reject any notion that Qatar is unfit to host the FIFA World Cup."