Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
April 13, 2022

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‘Systematic and structural’ abuse of World Cup security workers in Qatar

Security guards in Qatar are working in conditions amounting to forced labour, including on projects linked to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to a report by Amnesty International.

In the 74-page report published last week, the human rights organisation documents the experiences of 34 current or former employees of eight private security companies in Qatar. The companies provided services for sites including government ministries and football stadiums, as well as other infrastructure projects for the 2022 World Cup, such as hotels, transport systems and sports facilities. At least three of the companies provided security for recent FIFA tournaments, including the Club World Cup and the FIFA Arab Cup.

The security guards, all migrant workers, described routinely working 12 hours a day, seven days a week – often for months or even years on end without a day off. Most said their employers refused to respect the weekly rest day required by Qatari law, and workers who took their day off faced being punished with arbitrary wage deductions.

QatarSportsStadium-RosemaryBehan-AlamyStock-22

Credit: RosemaryBehan/AlamyStock


Qatari law and regulations limit weekly working hours to a 60-hour maximum, including overtime, with workers entitled to one paid rest day each week. Despite this, most of the security guards who spoke to Amnesty said they regularly worked 12 hours a day and were routinely denied a day off, meaning many worked 84 hours a week for weeks on end.

Many guards travelled to Qatar having paid hefty recruitment fees, only to find that the pay and working conditions were very different to what had been promised. Some reported being heavily fined for misdemeanours such as not wearing their uniform properly, or for leaving their post to use the toilet without someone to cover for them.

Amnesty’s interviews with the security guards, supervisors and safety officers built on a set of previous interviews with guards in 2017-18. Amnesty says the consistency of their accounts across several companies indicates that these abuses are systemic.

“Many of the security guards we spoke to knew their employers were breaking the law but felt powerless to challenge them,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice. “Physically and emotionally exhausted, workers kept reporting for duty under threat of financial penalties – or worse, contract termination or deportation.

“Despite the progress Qatar has made in recent years, our research suggests that abuses in the private security sector – which will be increasingly in demand during the World Cup – remain systematic and structural.

“With the World Cup just months away, FIFA must focus on doing more to prevent abuses in the inherently perilous private security sector, or see the tournament further marred by abuse.”

Qatar ‘committed’ to workers’ welfare

In response to Amnesty’s allegations, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it was committed to protecting the health, safety and security of those working on official World Cup projects.

“Our entire programme of work – which began in the construction industry and has since evolved into the hospitality sector – is governed by our contractually binding workers’ welfare standards, which are diligently monitored and enforced through a robust four-tier auditing system,” said a Supreme Committee spokesperson.

“Before engaging with any company, the SC [Supreme Committee] conducts due diligence via a pre-mobilisation approval process, to ensure contractors are aware of their obligations of complying with our standards. This process was, and continues to be, undertaken for all contractors involved in SC projects and official FIFA tournaments.

“Unfortunately, three companies were found to be non-compliant across a number of areas during the FIFA Club World Cup 2020 and FIFA Arab Cup 2021. These violations were completely unacceptable and led to a range of measures being enforced, including placing contractors on a watchlist or blacklist to avoid them working on future projects – including the FIFA World Cup – before reporting [them] to the Ministry of Labour for further investigation and punitive action.”

According to the Supreme Committee, as a results of workers’ welfare inspections, 391 contractors have been reported to the Ministry of Labour, 50 contractors have been blocked from deploying on projects, 56 have been taken off projects, 226 have been placed on a watchlist, and seven have been blacklisted.

 

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Ian Hart
Ian Hart
April 13, 2022 10:24 am

Another damning report. I’m not sure it will affect audience engagement, The majority of people are still going to watch and interact with the tournament, no matter what. But, it will certainly be interesting to monitor, as the groundswell of condemnation surrounding the tournament increases as it gets closer.

Mohammad S A Abbas
Mohammad S A Abbas
April 19, 2022 5:53 pm

I do suggest to encourage hiring retired ex law enforcement or x military Qatari or Gcc Citizens for close supervision among those companies. The alarming issue here is that, those security guards may not be able to fulfil the duties assigned to them in properly, if those issues unresolved. Moreover, those guards needs to be trained on how to deal with football fans.