Qatar: hundreds of workers employed as security guards and marshals at World Cup suffered labour abuses

A security guard at work in a stadium in November last year © AFP/Getty

Investigation into Qatar-based Teyseer Security Services shows pattern of abuses against migrant workers

Workers’ unlawful recruitment fees never repaid, promised overtime pay and bonuses withheld, and they were forced out of the country when the World Cup ended

Marshals said they had to work 12 hours every day and worked for up to 38 consecutive days without time off

‘FIFA has yet to effectively investigate the issue, or offer remedies’ - Steve Cockburn 

Hundreds of migrant workers hired as security guards and marshals at the Qatar World Cup are still being denied justice for the abuses they suffered despite FIFA and the hosts Qatar being warned they were especially vulnerable to exploitation, said Amnesty International today. 

A new Amnesty investigation has found serious labour abuses occurred in the employment of security guards and marshals at the World Cup which were not properly addressed by either the Qatari authorities or FIFA.

Amnesty spoke to 22 men from Nepal, Kenya and Ghana who were among thousands of migrant workers employed on short-term contracts by the Qatar-based company Teyseer Security Services to work as marshals and security guards at FIFA World Cup sites. The men worked in the lead-up to the tournament and during the event itself, and were stationed at various busy locations, including the Khalifa International Stadium, FIFA fan zones, the Corniche, and both in and outside the metro station in Souk Waqif in Doha.

All of the workers interviewed said that Teyseer’s representatives, or recruitment agents who supplied the company, made false promises such as suggesting that they could take up more senior roles and earn an extra £220 a month, or stay and work in Qatar beyond the three-month contract period, or earn potential bonuses. Once in Qatar, however, nothing materialised.

More than a third of the men interviewed, especially those employed as marshals, said they had to work 12 hours every day and worked for up to 38 consecutive days without a day off, or adequate pay to reflect this extra work, which breaches Qatari law. Their duties often required them to stand for many hours without sitting down, and to deal with large crowds after matches without adequate training and support. (See below for more detail on the abusive employment practices).

Marcus*, from Ghana, 33, who works to support his siblings and paid nearly £320 in recruitment costs, said:

“I had to take out a loan to pay for the expenses to travel to work in Qatar during the World Cup. I am still paying it, what I earned was not enough.”

Richard*, 24, from Ghana, who worked at a training ground for one of the football teams in the competition, said:

“I lost because I paid almost £550 before going there. I only received about £1,200, so I only made £650. I would get more than that if I had stayed in Ghana. I lost my job as a result [of going] so I came back with little money and no job.”

Kiran*, 26, from Nepal, who worked as a marshal at the Souk Waqif metro said:

“It was a tough job because there was one metro [station] in the area and too much of a crowd. I had to stand for ten to 12 hours a day… just resting my back on the barricades. At times we felt scared because it was too busy, and people were pushing.”

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said:

“The World Cup organisers were well aware of the issues but failed to put in place adequate measures to protect workers and prevent predictable labour abuses at World Cup sites, even after workers raised these issues directly.

“It’s six months since the tournament concluded but FIFA and Qatar have yet to offer an effective and accessible scheme to enable abused workers to receive the justice and compensation they are owed.

“Qatar’s existing mechanism for redress is not fit for purpose and has left thousands of workers deprived of compensation for the abuses they suffered.

“FIFA has a clear responsibility to ensure human rights are respected throughout the supply chain engaged in preparing and delivering its showcase competition.

“Although six months have passed since the World Cup, FIFA has yet to effectively investigate the issue, or offer remedies. Workers have already waited too long for justice.

“FIFA must now step in and offer immediate and meaningful remediation for the human rights abuses suffered by workers.”

Recruitment fees and protests

The men arrived in Qatar in mid-October 2022 and were contracted to work for three months. They all said they incurred recruitment-related costs to secure their positions, with 16 saying they paid more than £150, including four who paid more than £450, which was equivalent to more than a third of their total expected earnings. For some, these costs included up to £225 in recruitment agency fees, as well as medical assessments before they travelled to Qatar, Covid-19 tests and criminal records checks. Five of the workers from Ghana and Kenya said they incurred between £70 and about £200 each in travel and living costs in order to participate in a two-week training programme in their home countries, during which they were not paid.

Some recruitment agents told workers that Teyseer would pay them back for the costs incurred, and job offer letters seen by Amnesty confirmed that the company would bear all recruitment-related costs. The vast majority, however, say they were not reimbursed, despite Teyseer representatives asking some workers shortly after their arrival in Qatar to write to management stating the amounts they had paid in recruitment fees.

These abuses led many of Teyseer’s workers to protest on multiple occasions while they were in Qatar. Some told Amnesty they reported their treatment on the World Cup Grievances Hotline in November, but that no action was taken. One worker said a manager threatened to fire him and others in retaliation for complaining, warning them not to report issues again.

Days before their contracts expired in early January, hundreds of marshals staged a protest demanding their dues, including unpaid overtime and a bonus they said had been promised on completion of their duties. Following this protest, workers said that representatives of both Teyseer and the Government promised they would be compensated, a pledge that has not been honoured. According to some of those interviewed, Teyseer representatives threatened unspecified “action” if the men failed to leave Qatar on flights arranged by the company, or were told they would have to pay for a new air ticket. The men said hundreds had to leave Qatar without compensation. 

Investigation and response from Teyseer and FIFA

Amnesty reviewed employment contracts, job offer correspondence and audio-visual materials such as voice records of communications between workers and recruitment agents, and found that the workers had suffered a range of work-related harms and abuses. These included workers paying unlawful recruitment fees and other related costs, and being given misleading statements about the terms and conditions of their employment. At the end of their temporary contracts, workers said they had no option but to return home, effectively denying them recourse to any remedy or compensation. 

Despite the men’s assertions that Teyseer and FIFA were made aware of the abuses, it appears neither organisation took effective action to adequately address these issues and ensure timely remedy for workers. Teyseer denied the allegations, saying it followed an “ethical recruitment process”, detailing at length the various measures it said it had taken to protect workers’ rights on World Cup sites. FIFA said that due diligence was conducted on Teyseer but acknowledged there were “different perceptions and views” on the experience of Teyseer’s workers. It said it will seek further clarification on the issues raised but did not commit to stepping in to provide remedy. Both FIFA and Teyseer confirmed that issues had been raised via the hotline and claimed that they had been addressed. 

Qatar has introduced grievance mechanisms but workers must still be in the country to access Qatari labour courts and the country’s compensation scheme. With no way to complain remotely, and with little choice but to leave the country, the migrant workers have been denied justice. The government of Qatar responded by pointing to some of the measures taken in recent years to reform its labour system. However, it failed to address specific concerns raised in relation to Teyseer or to committing to any action to investigate and remedy the abuses suffered by its workers. 

Longstanding pattern of harms

The abuses endured by the security guards and marshals are part of a pattern of harms suffered by migrant workers in Qatar since FIFA selected the country to host the World Cup in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have paid illegal recruitment fees - or had their wages withheld - and have not had redress. Many who helped build stadiums and infrastructure, or worked to help deliver the tournament, died and their families are yet to be adequately compensated, or even to be compensated at all. Qatar and FIFA have yet to establish a sufficient mechanism for redress, insisting that the existing process in Qatar is adequate. In March this year, FIFA announced that its human rights subcommittee would conduct an assessment of the human rights legacy of the tournament, including the question of addressing labour abuses. 

*Names of the workers quoted have been changed at their request.

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