Workers at Qatar’s World Cup stadiums toil in debt and squalor Workers’ rights

When the England staff arrives at Al Bayt stadium for his or her match in opposition to the USA in simply over two months, they are going to be met by a surprising 60,000-seat area constructed to resemble a nomadic tent.

The stadium, arguably Qatar’s best, will host matches from the opening recreation by way of to the semi-finals. If England win their group and attain that far, they are going to play 4 video games at the bottom.

Just as spectacular is the pristine park surrounding the stadium. Manicured lawns are dotted with fountains, streams and a lake. Ducks play in the cool water. A working monitor winds its method across the stadium passing plenty of immaculate coaching pitches with grass like a placing inexperienced.

Qatar’s 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium is supposed to resemble a Bedouin tent. Photograph: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

Enough the lads who labor day after day in the relentless warmth and humidity to keep up this exceptional inexperienced area – watering the grounds, chopping the grass and painstakingly pulling up weeds by hand – dwell in very totally different situations.

At the tip of every shift, they’re pushed for 40 minutes to the sting of the desert, the place they’re dropped off at a farm belonging to their employer, Al Sulaiteen Agricultural and Industrial Complex (SAIC). Inside, amongst rows of big greenhouses, they return to their rooms in small rundown cabins.

Some homes three or 4 staff in single beds, others 5 or 6 in bunks, however all these considered by the Guardian have been windowless, cramped and soiled. Towels draped between the higher and decrease bunks present what little privateness there may be. Water bottles, cooking utensils and private belongings are crammed underneath the beds. Clothes hold on strains strung throughout the partitions. The camp is as squalid as any this journalist has seen in 9 years of reporting from Qatar.

Fifa and the native World Cup organizing physique, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), have repeatedly claimed that the event has been the catalyst to rework the dwelling and working situations of low-wage laborers, in Qatar and throughout the area, however the Guardian’s findings expose critical shortcomings in the reform course of.

Workers employed on World Cup-related initiatives are alleged to take pleasure in superior remedy in line with stringent “staff’ welfare requirements”, however in interviews this summer time with staff employed by SAIC at three World Cup stadiums – Al Bayt, Al Janoub and Ahmad Bin Ali – the Guardian heard allegations of a number of breaches of those requirements.

All the employees interviewed, who’re from Bangladesh, Nepal and India, say they have been compelled to pay unlawful charges to brokers in their very own nations to safe their jobs.

“I paid 300,000 [Bangladeshi taka],” says one employee, the equal of almost £2,700, an enormous sum in Bangladesh. “Some pay slightly extra, some rather less, however everybody pays.”

The native organizing committee of the World Cup launched a scheme in 2017 to encourage its contractors to repay their staff’ recruitment charges, however SAIC staff who spoke to the Guardian say they’ve obtained nothing.

Two rows of shabby portable cabins with few windows
Cabins at the camp housing staff employed at a number of World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Photograph: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

Most of the interviewed staff are incomes a primary wage of 1000 rials (£225) a month, the equal of round £1 an hour. Food and lodging are offered by SAIC. The wage is the authorized minimal in Qatar, however staff say they’re struggling to repay their recruitment charges, and related money owed, and ship cash to their households on this wage.

“The wage may be very low, it’s extremely troublesome. I can earn this in India,” says one employee who, after deducting his bills in Qatar, is ready to ship about £160 to his spouse and 4 kids every month.

In the face of relentless criticism of its remedy of low-wage migrant staff, Qatar introduced a brand new regulation in 2020 which promised to take away the abusive Kafala system – underneath which staff have been unable to vary jobs – however the staff say SAIC refuses to launch them.

“The firm will not give [permission to leave]. You can solely change in the event you go house, cancel your visa and apply once more,” says one employee.

Another laughs at the suggestion, saying: “If we may change jobs, everybody would depart!”

A room cluttered with personal possessions.  Cloths hanging from strings offer the only privacy for the bunk beds
One of the rooms at a camp housing staff employed at World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Photograph: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

The World Cup organizing committee mentioned: “We acknowledge that the SAIC staff should still face challenges from their employers.” It inspired SAIC staff to make use of its grievance hotline to lift considerations.

During the most well liked summer time months, the employees rise up earlier than daybreak and head out to the Al Bayt stadium – which value £620m to construct. By seven, the warmth is insufferable, however Kabir* works on, watering the grass and bushes.

He didn’t know he can be working at a World Cup web site when he got here to Qatar, however it doesn’t appear to curiosity him. “I’m not excited in regards to the World Cup,” he says with a shrug. “I do not assume we are able to even go contained in the stadium.”

The solely factor that basically considerations him is his wage. His household depends upon his meager revenue, however most of his wages go in direction of shopping for again the jewellery he gave to a moneylender as collateral so he may afford the £1,170 charge for his job.

“Qatar is a wealthy nation, however they’re paying so little for the work we do,” says Kabir. “You can neglect about good pay right here.”

The SC mentioned it had “stayed true to its dedication of using the World Cup to ship lasting social adjustments for our staff, to enhance their working and dwelling situations”.

It cited a spread of steps which were taken to lift the working and dwelling requirements of staff, together with improved lodging, measures to reduce staff’ publicity to warmth, laws to introduce a minimal wage and permit staff to vary jobs, and a monitoring system to make sure corporations adjust to the regulation.

“Individual circumstances of wrongdoing don’t current a full and correct image of the adjustments which have taken place in Qatar, the place hundreds of corporations have adjusted their work practices to adjust to the brand new legal guidelines and rules,” it added.

England’s Football Association mentioned: “Any questions referring to the stadiums for use throughout Qatar 2022 needs to be directed to event organizers Fifa.” It pointed to an earlier assertion in which it mentioned: “We consider that there’s proof of considerable progress being made by Qatar in relation to staff’ rights. However, we acknowledge there may be nonetheless extra to be achieved.”

Fifa mentioned it was in contact with the SC concerning the allegations raised by SAIC workers. It added: “In addition to the in depth measures already launched, which purpose to assist staff concerned in the preparation and supply of the World Cup, Fifa has actively pushed for the implementation of broader labor reforms that apply to all corporations and initiatives throughout the nation and profit all staff in Qatar.”

SAIC didn’t reply to requests for remark.

* Name has been modified to guard his identification

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