Amnesty International's new charge against forced labor in Qatar

Amnesty International’s new charge against forced labor in Qatar

Amnesty International has pointed to the conditions of workers in Qatar on the sidelines of the next FIFA World Cup. A new report by the NGO published on Thursday denounces in particular the forced labor imposed on security agents in the Gulf country.

It’s hard to ignore the criticism against Qatar as it intensifies as the 2022 World Cup approaches. Like the president of the Norwegian federation at the Fifa congress in Doha or certain tricolor supporters who will boycott the tournament, this World Cup (from November 21 to December 18) generates strong reactions and a significant protest movement.

The sling against the Gulf country is not likely to fall after the publication of a new report this Thursday by Amnesty International. Throughout the 74 pages of a document entitled “They think that we’re machines” (which can be translated as “They take us for machines”), the NGO denounces the working conditions of employees in Qatar and in particular on projects related to the World Cup scheduled for the end of the year. The organization thus collected the testimonies of 34 security agents working for eight different companies. All are unanimous and show what Amnesty presents as serious violations of the labor code.

Crazy hours, no days off

For several months, from April 2021 to February 2022, Amnesty conducted its investigation and collected the edifying testimonies of these employees involved in the security of sites such as ministries, hotels, sports facilities or even FIFA Cup stadiums. world in Qatar. If, as was already the case in the revelations of the Guardian, football is not the only subject of this report by the NGO, it is very important to it. At the heart of the problem is the rhythm imposed on migrant workers, so much so that it is presented as forced labor by the organization’s document. In fact, employees sometimes had to hold 12 hours a day during the seven days of the week.

“Imagine what it’s like to work a 12-hour day and then be taken to the training center, where you then train for eight hours,” said Zeke, who is originally from Uganda and who has notably guarded a stadium during the Club World Cup in February 2021. All evening. Then you go back to work at 5 a.m. You sleep four hours a night and receive your training all week. They take us for machines .”

And Godfey, a Ugandan employed at a sports complex for five years, also describes his daily life: “We work from January to January, from Sunday to Sunday. No day off… If you are absent, they will deduct two days or no more pay for this absence.Even if we informed them that we were in the hospital…Never a day off as stipulated in the contract or in the law…They give a reasoning that we work eight hours, so why would we need rest but even if you work 12 hours they don’t give a day off and they deduct money [si vous en prenez un].”

Fraud and discriminatory measures

Beyond the restrictive hours denounced by many employees, often from poor countries and forced to accept these conditions to earn a living, Amnesty International has denounced the treatment inflicted on security guards in Qatar. Of the sample of 34 witnesses in this report, some also had to work outdoors and in stifling heat without any real means of shelter or sometimes even without access to drinking water during the work. Each pose during the day may result in a payroll deduction. “The risk that heat stress represents for the lives of workers is nevertheless very real”, denounces the NGO on its French site before specifying the racial discrimination of which certain employees from Africa have sometimes been victims.

“They say: You are an African, you can work 12 hours because you are strong”, revealed Omar, an immigrant worker living in Qatar. Similarly, salaries are sometimes linked to the migrants’ country of origin. “You can find out that a Kenyan is paid 1,300 Rials, but for the same job as a security guard, Filipinos earn 1,500 Rials,” detailed Asher, who is from Kenya and has worked at different sites in Qatar. until 2021 For Tunisians, it’s 1,700 rials. The salary is fixed according to nationality.”

Amnesty asks Fifa to put pressure on Qatar

After denouncing the working conditions of security guards in Qatar thanks to the testimonies of several migrants, Amnesty International also called for change from the various actors in the Gulf state as well as from decision-makers in the world of football. To the government and authorities in Qatar, the NGO wants them to investigate working conditions in the private security sector, to ensure that all workers are genuinely paid in accordance with the law in force and that they communicate an action plan to reform work.

As for Fifa and the Supreme Committee in charge of the organization of the 2022 World Cup, and even the FFF for the French part, Amnesty International asks them to intensify the demands vis-à-vis Qatar and “employ leverage to push Qatar to better implement its reforms and enforce its laws.” Just over seven months before the opening match of the World Cup between the Netherlands and Senegal, the Qatari organization continues to give rise to controversy. As the competition gets closer, it is likely to intensify further if nothing changes.

Jean-Guy Lebreton RMC Sport journalist

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