TW Newsdesk, November 11: In the wake of the FIFA World Cup 2022, due to be held in a couple of weeks, Qatar, the host country, has found itself on the receiving end of severe backlash owing to the controversy regarding the poor treatment of immigrant workers involved in the building of several stadiums for the World Cup.
The issues have been brought to light by Human Rights Watch which conducted several interviews between April and September 2022 and caught hold of over 30 migrant workers from Kenya, India and Nepal, all of whom have recently planned or participated in strikes. Notably, such strikes are deemed illegal in Qatar.
According to most of these workers, their participation in such strikes was significant owing to an alleged “wage theft” where employers failed to or withheld payment for months. Other workers who had short-term visas were reportedly told by their employers that they were being sent home before the completion of their two-year contract.
One migrant worker also reported that he was detained on August 14 along with other protestors who were then deported after 20 days. When questioned, Qatari authorities admitted to the act, saying that they detained and facilitated a supposed “voluntary return” of those workers who were held for participating in the August 14 strike over charges of “violating Qatar’s public security laws”. They further added that they have taken legal action against two establishments over charges of “wage abuse”.
According to several sources, workers have expressed widespread concern over the fact that their employers might be using the World Cup as an excuse to deprive them of their due payment and have them sent back home. This apprehension has secured more ground ever since Qatar Public Works issued Circular 2021/42, which mandated that all construction work be completed by September 21.
During their interview, one migrant worker said, “Of course, we fear reprisal. But our hope is that when there are thousands of us raising our voices, we won’t get into trouble individually. How can they jail thousands of us?”
Another worker opened up about a very fundamental dilemma after not receiving their pay for months and stated, “If we don’t participate, our situation may not improve,” he said. “If we participate, we may get into trouble in a foreign land. Who will help us then?”
While some of these workers have managed to receive their due pay, others are still waiting for it. As one worker puts it, “There are two things we [migrant workers] need. Regular work, and regular pay for work completed. Unfortunately, neither is guaranteed in Qatar, especially if you land a bad employer.”
It has been a long time since immigrant workers have been fighting for their rights on foreign soil, but one can only hope that the efforts of the HRW bear fruit and that the grievances of the people behind making FIFA 2022 possible are heard and appropriately addressed. Finally, wage abuse, as a separate socio-economic issue, should be properly investigated and addressed in Qatar.