Qatar World Cup stadium workers toil in debt and misery | labor rights

When England arrive at Al Bayt Stadium for their match against the USA in just two months’ time, they will be met by a stunning 60,000-seat stadium built in the shape of a Bedouin tent.

The stadium, arguably the best in Qatar, will host matches from the opening match up to the semi-finals. If England win their group and get this far, they will play four home matches.

As impressive is the pristine park surrounding the stadium. The manicured lawns are dotted with fountains, streams and a lake. Ducks play in cold water. A running track winds its way around the stadium and passes a number of immaculate training pitches with grass like green fields.

The 60,000-seat Qatari Al Bayt Stadium is supposed to resemble a Bedouin tent. Photography: Pete Pattison/The Guardian

Until now The men who work day in and day out in relentless heat and humidity to maintain this wonderful green space – watering the ground, cutting the lawn and weeding by hand – live in completely different conditions.

At the end of each shift, they are transported for 40 minutes to the edge of the desert, where they are dropped off on their employer’s farm, the Al Sulaiteen Agricultural and Industrial Complex (SAIC). Inside, among the rows of giant greenhouses, they return to their rooms in dilapidated little cabins.

Some house three or four workers in single beds, others five or six in cots, but everyone the Guardian saw was windowless, cramped, and filthy. Towels that are rolled between the upper and lower beds offer a little privacy. Water bottles, cooking utensils and personal belongings crammed under the beds. Clothes hung on ropes hung across the walls. The camp is as filthy as any journalist he has seen in his nine years of reporting from Qatar.

FIFA and the local World Cup Organizing Committee repeatedly claimed The tournament was a catalyst for changing living and working conditions for low-paid workers, in Qatar and across the region, but the Guardian’s findings reveal serious shortcomings in the reform process.

FIFA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Workers working on World Cup related projects are supposed to enjoy superior treatment in line with “Workers Welfare Standards‘, but in interviews this summer with workers employed by SAIC at three World Cup stadiums – Al al-Bayt, Al Janoub and Ahmed Ben Ali – The Guardian heard allegations Multiple violations of these standards.

All the workers interviewed, who are from Bangladesh, Nepal and India, said they were forced to pay illegal fee For agents in their countries to secure their jobs.

“I paid 300,000 [Bangladeshi taka]That’s roughly £2,700, says one worker, a huge sum in Bangladesh. “Some pay a little more, others a little less, but everyone pays.”

Local Organizing Committee of world Cup It introduced a scheme in 2017 to encourage contractors to pay hiring fees for their workers, but SAIC workers who spoke to the Guardian say they have received nothing.

Two rows of shabby cabins with a few windows
Cabins in the camp house workers who work on many of the World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Photography: Pete Pattison/The Guardian

Most of the workers interviewed are paid a base wage of 1,000 riyals (£225) a month, the equivalent of about £1 an hour. Food and lodging are provided by SAIC. Wage is the legal minimum in Qatar, but workers say they struggle to pay recruitment fees and associated debts, and send money to their families on that salary.

“The salary is too low, it’s too hard. I can earn this in India,” says one worker who, after deducting his costs in Qatar, can send about £160 to his wife and four children every month.

In the face of persistent criticism of the treatment of low-wage migrant workers, Qatar announced a new law The 2020 that promised to remove the abuser guaranty The system – under which workers were unable to change jobs – but workers say SAIC refuses to release them.

“The company will not give [permission to leave]. You can only change if you go back to your country, cancel your visa and apply again,” says one of the workers.

Another laughed at the suggestion, “If we could change jobs, everyone would leave!”

A room full of personal belongings.  String hanging fabrics provide the only privacy for bunk beds
One of the camp rooms housing workers working in the World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Photography: Pete Pattison/The Guardian

The World Cup Organizing Committee said: “We recognize that SAIC workers may still face challenges from their employers.” She encouraged SAIC staff to use the grievance hotline to raise their concerns.

During the hot summer months, workers get up before dawn and head to the Playground – for a charge £620 million for the building. At seven, the heat is unbearable, but a large *works to irrigate the lawn and trees.

He didn’t know he was going to be working at a World Cup location when he came to Qatar, but that doesn’t seem to interest him. “I am not excited about the World Cup,” he said with a tone. “I don’t think we can even enter the stadium.”

The only thing that really matters to him is his salary. His family depends on his meager income, but most of his wages go to buy jewelry he gave to the moneylender as security so he could afford his £1,170 job fee.

“Qatar is a rich country, but it pays little for the work we do,” Kabir says. “You can forget about the good pay here.”

The World Cup Local Organizing Committee said it had “remained its commitment to capitalizing on the World Cup to bring lasting social changes to our workers, to improve their working and living conditions”.

He cited a range of steps that have been taken to raise working and living standards for workers, including improving accommodation, measures to reduce workers’ exposure to heat, legislation to introduce a minimum wage and allowing workers to change jobs, and a monitoring system. To ensure companies comply with the law.

She added that “cases of individual violations do not provide a complete and accurate picture of the changes that have occurred in Qatar, as thousands of companies have modified their work practices to comply with new laws and regulations.”

The Football Association said: “Any questions regarding the stadiums to be used during Qatar 2022 should be directed to the tournament organizers FIFA.” Referred to earlier statement It stated: “We believe there is evidence that Qatar has made substantive progress with regard to workers’ rights. However, we recognize that there is still more to be done.”

SAIC did not respond to requests for comment.

* The name has been changed to protect his identity

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