A contractor involved in building the marquee stadium for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup did not pay its workers, leaving them stranded thousands of miles from home, according to a report released by Amnesty International yesterday. Mercury MENA “failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless” in the country, according to the London-based rights group.
However in response, football’s governing body FIFA accused Amnesty of being “misleading” and said the non-payments were not connected to the 2022 tournament. Amnesty alleges that at least 78 employees from Nepal, India and the Philippines had not been paid since February 2016 and were owed an average of $2,000 (1,700 euros) -- for some the equivalent of several months’ wages.
In some cases this had “ruined lives”, said Amnesty, which urged the Doha government to pay the workers, some of whom took out huge loans to secure a job in the country. Earlier this month, Doha said it would abolish exit permits - a cornerstone of the kafala system likened to modern-day slavery - but has not given a date for when this will come into force.
In April, the International Labour Organization opened an office in Doha, part of an agreement under which the United Nations agency will oversee wholesale labour reform in the emirate. There are some two million foreign workers in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast World Cup infrastructure projects.