World Cup stadium construction flouted Qatar’s new laws, rights group says

Qatar’s new labour laws didn’t prevent construction companies exploiting workers during the building of stadiums for the forthcoming soccer World Cup, according to human rights group Equidem.

Contractors looked to get around the rules by sabotaging labour inspections and taking disciplinary action against those who reported legal violations, the group said Thursday, citing interviews with 60 people employed at all eight stadiums that will be used during the tournament, which starts November 20.

Among examples of exploitation alleged in the report, workers said they paid fees to be recruited, received less pay than promised and were prevented from changing jobs — all illegal under reforms Qatar has adopted in recent years.

The findings were rejected by officials overseeing the event. The tournament has been mired in controversy since being awarded to the oil-rich Middle East nation in 2010. Qatar has especially been criticised by activists, players, and foreign government officials for its human-rights record and policies that limit rights of women and LGBTQ people.

The treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums has also drawn international scrutiny, particularly after reports of deaths on construction sites. Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the building projects, responded by instituting safety, health and employment conditions to ensure safer workplaces.

“These practices are used by employers to create a captive and controllable workforce and appear to be entrenched,” Equidem wrote in the report, which it said was based on interviews conducted since September 2020. The introduction of reforms may “have acted as cover for powerful businesses that seek to exploit migrant workers with impunity.”

The Supreme Committee responded that the Equidem report is “littered with inaccuracies and misrepresentations” and “is an egregious attempt to undermine and damage” the organisation’s reputation, according to a statement.

The Qatari government has bent to international pressure to improve working conditions, instituting a universal minimum wage and limiting the hours that workers can toil outside during the hot summer months. While activists have welcomed some of these policies, they have warned they’re poorly enforced and that the system provides insufficient recourse for workers.

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