News / Middle East

Rights Campaigners: Qatar World Cup Workers Suffer ‘Widespread Abuses’

Rights Campaigners: Qatar World Cup Workers Suffer ‘Widespread Abuses’i
X
November 19, 2013 2:00 AM
Construction is getting under way in Qatar on the stadiums, hotels and infrastructure that will host visitors to the 2022 FIFA World Cup (football/soccer) finals. But human rights group Amnesty International, along with the United Nations, says the millions of migrants that Qatar is relying on to build the venues suffer from widespread abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell
— Construction is getting under way in Qatar on the stadiums, hotels and infrastructure that will host visitors to the 2022 FIFA World Cup (football/soccer finals). But human rights group Amnesty International, along with the United Nations, says the millions of migrants that Qatar is relying on to build the venues suffer from widespread abuses.

Toiling away on vast construction sites springing up from the sands and artificial islands, Qatar’s 1.35-million-strong army of foreign workers is the manpower behind Doha’s ever-changing skyline.

But human rights groups say the workers’ living and working conditions fail to match Qatar’s futuristic ambitions.

Amnesty International found many workers living 10 or 15 in one small room with no air conditioning, in temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius.

Between the blocks there's overflowing sewage and rotting trash.

Many of the migrants were also denied their wages, says Audrey Gaughran, director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“We found workers who hadn’t been paid for months - six to nine months - and were still being compelled to go to work," she said. "We found workers living in terribly squalid conditions in labor camps.”

Most of the workers are from south and Southeast Asia - countries like Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. Even if they wanted to return home, they can’t, says Gaughran.

“Migrant workers cannot leave the country without an exit permit, and their employer has to sign off on that," she said. "And they can’t change jobs without their employer’s permission.”

Among six workers living in a tiny room without any power is Aniruda Kumar, who is from Nepal.  He said that he and his friends eat once a day and the rest of the time they stay hungry. "Our rice is finished and we have no money for any more," he said.  "We sleep hungry, but what can we do?"

Rights groups are also sounding the alarm on workplace safety.

The International Trade Union Confederation has warned that based on current mortality figures, construction for the World Cup could cost the lives of 4,000 migrant workers by 2022.

Bhupendra Malla Thakuri, also from Nepal, finally won a court battle against his employers this year after an accident in 2011 that nearly killed him. Thakuri said he used to work from 4 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. non-stop. If he asked to stop and eat, the company official used to say, ‘What have you come here for, to work or to eat?’

The Qatari government has yet to respond to the Amnesty report but says conditions for World Cup construction workers will be ‘suitable.’

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Francois Crepeau, says now is the time to act.

"It probably increases the challenges, because the number of workers will increase again quite dramatically in the coming years," he said. "But it also provides an opportunity because of the visibility, the scrutiny under which Qatar finds itself.”

Football’s world governing body FIFA has said it will raise the issues with Qatari authorities. Human rights groups say FIFA has the power to go much further in pushing for better workers’ rights.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid