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14 Jul 2021

Checked Out: Migrant worker abuse in Qatar's World Cup luxury hotels

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Football’s increasing consciousness of human rights issues will be tested when teams arrive in Qatar at the end of 2022. To manage the expected influx of players, supporters and the media, the Gulf state has seen an exponential growth in the hotel industry, with an additional 26,000 hotel rooms being brought on stream in time for the World Cup.

In our second survey of the sector, we invited 19 hotel companies, representing more than 100 global brands with over 80 properties across Qatar, to answer questions on their approach to safeguarding migrant workers’ rights in the country. 11 companies responded to the survey; answers by hotel brands show they have failed to take necessary action to protect migrant workers, who suffer serious abuses. Following publication of the report, non-responding company Millennium & Copthorne Hotels provided a survey response on 30 September 2021.

A central pillar of our research involved engaging with partners to interview workers at hotels we approached. This testimony revealed a shocking contrast between hotels’ public policy commitments and their practical application or enforcement with many workers continuing to suffer serious abuses including: extortionate recruitment fees, discrimination and being trapped in a job through fear of reprisal and intimidation. These occurred despite “landmark” labour reforms which promised to end the Kafala system.

The Resource Centre invited the body responsible for delivering the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and FIFA to respond to the findings in the report. The Supreme Committee confirmed that their upcoming Annual Workers' Welfare Report includes detail on their work on the hospitality sector; they will share this with the Resource Centre. FIFA's response can be read in full here. Norwegian state broadcaster NRK published a response from the Government Communications Office.

On the new law [abolishing the No-Objection Certificate], to be honest, it’s just there on mere paper because these employers are not signing the resignation letters. Instead, they go ahead and cancel your visa and, before you know it, they forcefully repatriate you back to your country. On extreme cases they go further and report you as a runaway worker to the CID [Criminal Investigation Department].
Hotel driver from East Africa

Key findings:

  • Engagement has increased: 11 of 19 brands (58%) participated in this survey compared with seven out of 17 (41%) last time;
  • IHG scored the highest and was the only brand to be awarded a three-star rating (out of five). Louvre scored the lowest with 11 points (13%), but all brands scored below 50%;
  • Transparency lagged behind other sectors: only four of 19 brands disclosed names of their labour suppliers and recruiters;
  • Workers were not able to freely change jobs despite the landmark reform abolishing the No-Objection Certificate;
  • Recruitment remained one of the most serious areas of risk with due diligence processes not fit for purpose;
  • Worker voice is severely suppressed;
  • Subcontracted workers had far less favourable terms and conditions, received substantially less pay for the same work and were subject to the most serious abuses. No brand demonstrated satisfactory due diligence of labour suppliers;
  • Ten out of 18 workers interviewed from Africa or Asia reported pay and position were dependent on nationality; and
  • Most responding brands (six) provided some information on their response to COVID-19.

Media coverage of the report can be read here.

Read the report

Explore our survey findings alongside hotel worker testimonies


Explore resources linked to this report.

Press Release

Read our media summary on how hotel brands are failing to take action to prevent migrant workers

Survey responses

Find out more about this and past surveys, and explore the full detail of responses from companies and information they have since disclosed

Additional company comments

Following the launch of the report, some companies & organisations disclosed additional information