Skip to main content

Qatar warned over World Cup labor laws

By CNN Staff
June 12, 2012 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Construction of the Lusail Stadium is due to start in 2015 and will be completed in 2019.
Construction of the Lusail Stadium is due to start in 2015 and will be completed in 2019.
  • Human Rights Watch issues warning over employment laws for migrant workers ahead of 2022 World Cup in Qatar
  • Qatari Labor Ministry denies that workers are being exploited.
  • Qatari government has vowed to make changes to existing system
  • FIFA pledges to raise worker rights issues with government.

(CNN) -- A leading humanitarian organization has urged soccer's ruling body FIFA and the Qatari government to honor their commitment to reform employment laws for migrant workers ahead of the 2022 World Cup, amid fears that stadiums will be built using an exploited labor force.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has compiled a 146-page report -- "Building a better World Cup: Protecting migrant workers" -- examining Qatar's recruitment and employment system, where 94% of its workforce are migrant workers.

The Qatari government recently suggested it will replace the current sponsorship scheme -- where all foreigners must be sponsored by local employers to work and reside in the country -- with a system of contracts between employers and employees.

But HRW said that it might prove of no benefit to the workers constructing the stadiums needed to host the tournament.

Ruud Gullit: Euros will confront racism
Former Polish striker condemns racism

"The government needs to ensure that the cutting-edge, high-tech stadiums it's planning to build for World Cup fans are not built on the backs of abused and exploited workers," HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.

"Workers building stadiums won't benefit from Qatar's general promise to end the sponsorship system. They need a deadline for this to happen before their work for the FIFA games starts."

Qatar is smaller than the Bahamas in land area, has less than 300,000 citizens, but boasts the highest per capita GDP in the world.

But in HRW's interviews with 73 migrant construction workers they reported a host of problems, including unpaid wages, illegal salary deductions, crowded and unsanitary labor camps, and unsafe working conditions.

The Qatari Labor Ministry denies that workers are being exploited.

"The Ministry has received no complaint of forced labor and it is inconceivable that such a thing exists in Qatar as the worker may break his contract and return to his country whenever he wishes and the employer cannot force him to remain in the country against his will," it said in a letter to HRW, an international non-governmental organization which conducts research on human rights.

The report seeks to address apparent concerns over worker safety in Qatar's construction industry and claims that discrepancies exist between the number of construction worker deaths reported by local embassies and the number reported by the government.

While the Nepali embassy reported 191 Nepali worker deaths in 2010, and the Indian embassy reported 98 Indian migrant deaths -- ncluding 45 deaths of young, low-income workers due to cardiac arrest, so far in 2012 -- the Qatar Labor Ministry says there have no more than six worker deaths over the last three years.

Qatar's success in being chosen by FIFA as 2022 World Cup hosts is likely to mean an anticipated construction boom in the Arab state.

The local organizing committee for the tournament, the Supreme Committee for Qatar 22, and the company it appointed to help oversee World Cup construction, CH2M HILL, have said they will establish labor standards that builders and other contractors hired to build World Cup venues must meet.

FIFA, meanwhile, has pledged to raise worker rights issues with the Qatar government.

Those commitments are a beginning, HRW says, but it wants additional steps, including minimum employee standards in line with Qatari law and international labor standards for private contractors involved in World Cup-related construction.

"Ensuring international standards for workers' rights and conditions has and will continue to be at the forefront of our committee's strategic planning and implementation," said the the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee. "We are fully committed to ensuring that preventative measures are in place to safeguard workers ahead of all construction projects directly relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup."

Fifa was not immediately available for comment.

Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
They do things differently at Sociedad Deportiva Eibar, up in the mist-cloaked valleys of the Basque country. And it is working.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.