‘Urgent action is needed to ensure we do not end up with a World Cup tournament that is built on forced labour and exploitation’ - Sherif Elsayed-Ali
The Qatari authorities are lagging severely behind in efforts to address the rampant abuse of migrant workers’ rights, Amnesty International said in a briefing published six months after the government announced a series of reforms to tackle exploitation ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
The briefing - No Extra Time: How Qatar is still failing on workers’ rights ahead of the World Cup - sets out how the Qatari government has failed to reform the systems that facilitate the abuse of migrant workers and has made only minimal progress on a number of plans it announced in May.
The briefing analyses the response of the authorities on nine key issues concerning the rights of migrant workers in Qatar - on five of these issues, there has been no progress, and only limited or partial progress has been achieved in the other four areas.
Amnesty has repeatedly urged Qatar to cancel the exit-permit, a blatant violation of migrants’ rights that gives employers control over migrant workers’ movements and can lead to exploited migrants being trapped and unable to leave the country. It has also called for reform of the sponsorship or “kafala” system, which ties workers to their employers and encourages forced labour.
Amnesty has also highlighted exploitative practices in Qatar - such as delays in payments of migrants’ wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, poor living conditions, and shocking instances of forced labour and physical and sexual violence against domestic workers.
Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights Sherif Elsayed-Ali said:
“Time is running out fast.
“Urgent action is needed to ensure we do not end up with a World Cup tournament that is built on forced labour and exploitation.
“Despite making repeated promises to clean up its act ahead of the World Cup, the government of Qatar still appears to be dragging its feet over some of the most fundamental changes needed, such as abolishing the exit permit and overhauling its abusive sponsorship system.
“Six months later, only a handful of the limited measures announced in May have even been partially implemented. Overall the steps taken so far are woefully insufficient.”
DLA Piper investigation
Following an international outcry spurred by critical media reports and pressure from Amnesty and other human rights groups, last year the Qatari government appointed the law firm DLA Piper to investigate allegations of abuse. This May DLA Piper made a series of recommendations to the Qatari government in a wide-ranging report that also criticised the sponsorship system.
Shortly afterwards, the Qatari government announced a series of reforms including proposals to amend the sponsorship system and the exit permit, and to abolish a rule that prevents workers from returning to Qatar for two years after they have ended a contract. In Amnesty’s view the announced reforms were a missed opportunity as they failed to address the key issues contributing to widespread abuse of migrant workers. However, even these limited proposed reforms remain unfulfilled.
Additionally, the government’s measures since May to remove major obstacles to workers seeking justice and action to address grave concerns regarding health and safety for construction workers, have been inadequate. As part of comprehensive reforms needed to make Qatar’s sponsorship system and labour law compliant with its human rights obligations, Amnesty is calling on the Qatari authorities to:
unambiguously abolish the exit permit;
launch an independent investigation into the causes of migrant workers’ deaths;
drop prohibitive fees for workers to raise court cases against employers;
publish the names of exploitative recruiters and employers;
grant domestic workers the legal protection of labour rights afforded to other workers.
Amnesty will continue to monitor the steps undertaken by Qatar to address these and other issues over the coming six months.