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Press Release

16 Nov 2022

African security workers faced severe labour abuses in Qatar ahead of World Cup 2022

With less than one week until the FIFA World Cup 2022 kicks off in Qatar, data showed African workers have been subject to at least 63 cases of labour rights abuse in Qatar between January 2016 and November 2022. Security workers are particularly at risk, impacted in half of the recorded cases, reflecting a trend in recent years to recruit workers, particularly from East Africa, into the sector. Figures from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre revealed workers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, as well as Ghana and Togo, are among those who have been subjected to alleged labour violations.

Migration from Africa to the Gulf has steadily increased over the past few years, particularly into sectors such as security, transport, retail and hospitality. Throughout 2022, recruitment from East Africa ramped up significantly as workers sought to take advantage of the employment opportunities offered by the world’s largest sporting tournament.

However, before arriving in Qatar, many workers paid extortionate fees to recruitment agencies in their home countries, often forcing them to take out loans and burdening themselves with debt to obtain employment. Upon arrival in Qatar, there have been cases of contracts and roles not matching what was promised to workers, exposing them to several exploitative working conditions such as low, delayed or non-payment of wages, long working hours, poor living conditions, health and safety violations, and lack of access to adequate healthcare.

Of the 63 cases of abuse impacting African workers in Qatar: 

  • In 34 cases, workers were employed in the security sector; playing an essential role keeping fans, teams and visitors safe at stadiums, in hotels and on the streets of Doha over the next two months.
  • Workers reported violations of conditions of their employment in over 4 out of 5 cases, including;
    • Paying recruitment fees in almost a third cases
    • Wage theft in 7 out of 10 cases.
  • Arbitrary denial of freedoms, such as restrictions on freedoms of expression, movement and association were reported in almost a third cases.
  • Health and safety violations featured in 1 out of 3 cases.
  • Inhumane or precarious living conditions were reported in 1 out of 3 cases.
  • Workers experienced verbal or physical abuse in 1 out of 3 cases.
  • Seven cases involved workers on World Cup stadium sites.

Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “Migrant workers from Africa, particularly East Africa, have been integral to the delivery of the Qatar World Cup and these figures reveal the human price of this tournament. Before even arriving in the country and starting their employment, workers have been riddled by debt because of extortionate, and often illegal, recruitment fees. Once in Qatar, many have found themselves trapped in exploitative working conditions and subject to wage theft. 

“What’s more, we know these figures are likely to be an undercount – there are many more cases which are yet to be brought to light. This cannot be the legacy of a sporting tournament that claims to unite the world. When Qatar won its bid for the FIFA World Cup 2022, the international community was presented with a rare opportunity to push for lasting change in a region where it is desperately needed – but this window has now closed. 

"Migration to the Gulf from Africa presents an important employment opportunity for millions of Africans, but it cannot come at the risk of serious labour rights abuses and exploitation. Without meaningful and systematic implementation of Qatar’s labour reforms, workers have suffered and will continue to long after the World Cup winners have lifted their trophy. Brands employing migrant workers of any nationality must be aware of the risks their business operations pose to workers during November and December’s sporting celebrations.”

// ENDS

Note to editors:

  • The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries. We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society.
  • The World Cup Parallel Portal: A centralised database bringing together relevant information on World Cup-related projects (stadiums, hotels infrastructure, etc.), contractors, sponsors, national football associations and allegations of labour abuse against migrant workers in Qatar. Activists, civil society and the media can use the platform as a resource to find information relating to the human rights impacts of the World Cup.
  • For a full breakdown of abuses affecting African workers in Qatar and the wider Gulf region, please get in touch.

Media contact: Priyanka Mogul (London-based), Media Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, +44 (0) 7880 956239, [email protected]