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

When the England group arrive at Al Bayt stadium for his or her fit towards the United States in simply over two months, they are going to be met by means of a surprising 60,000-seat area constructed to resemble a nomadic tent.

The stadium, arguably Qatar’s greatest, will host suits from the hole sport thru to the semi-finals. If England win their staff and achieve that a long way, 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 operating monitor winds its method across the stadium passing quite a few immaculate coaching pitches with grass like a placing inexperienced.

A tent-like stadium at dusk seen from across an ornamental pool
Qatar’s 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium is supposed to resemble a Bedouin tent. Photograph: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

Yet the lads who labour each day in the relentless warmth and humidity to deal with this exceptional inexperienced house – watering the grounds, reducing the grass and painstakingly pulling up weeds by means of hand – reside in very other prerequisites.

At the top of every shift, they’re pushed for 40 mins to the threshold of the desolate tract, 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 go back to their rooms in small rundown cabins.

Some space 3 or 4 employees in unmarried beds, others 5 – 6 in bunks, however all the ones considered by means of the Guardian had been windowless, cramped and grimy. Towels draped between the higher and decrease bunks supply what little privateness there may be. Water bottles, cooking utensils and private assets are filled underneath the beds. Clothes grasp on traces strung around the partitions. The camp is as squalid as any this journalist has observed in 9 years of reporting from Qatar.

Fifa and the native World Cup setting up committee have many times claimed that the event has been the catalyst to become the residing and running prerequisites of low-wage labourers, in Qatar and around the area, however the Guardian’s findings reveal severe shortcomings in the reform procedure.

Fifa didn’t reply to more than one requests for remark.

Workers hired on World Cup-related initiatives are meant to revel in awesome remedy in line with stringent “workers’ welfare standards”, however in interviews this summer time with employees hired by means of SAIC at 3 World Cup stadiums – Al Bayt, Al Janoub and Ahmad Bin Ali – the Guardian heard allegations of more than one breaches of those requirements.

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

“I paid 300,000 [Bangladeshi taka],” says one employee, the an identical of just about £2,700, an enormous sum in Bangladesh. “Some pay a little more, some a little less, but everyone pays.”

The native setting up committee of the World Cup presented a scheme in 2017 to inspire its contractors to pay off their employees’ recruitment charges, however SAIC employees who spoke to the Guardian say they have got won not anything.

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

Most of the interviewed employees are incomes a fundamental salary of 1000 rials (£225) a month, the an identical of round £1 an hour. Food and lodging are supplied by means of SAIC. The salary is the prison minimal in Qatar, however employees say they’re suffering to pay off their recruitment charges, and related money owed, and ship cash to their households in this wage.

“The salary is very low, it’s very difficult. I can earn this in India,” says one employee who, after deducting his prices in Qatar, is in a position to ship about £160 to his spouse and 4 kids every month.

In the face of relentless grievance of its remedy of low-wage migrant employees, Qatar introduced a new legislation in 2020 which promised to take away the abusive kafala machine – underneath which employees had been not able to modify jobs – however the employees say SAIC refuses to unlock them.

“The company won’t give [permission to leave]. You can only change if you go home, cancel your visa and apply again,” says one employee.

Another laughs at the recommendation, announcing: “If we could change jobs, everyone would leave!”

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

The World Cup setting up committee mentioned: “We recognise that the SAIC workers may still face challenges from their employers.” It inspired SAIC employees to make use of its criticism hotline to lift issues.

During the freshest summer time months, the employees rise up sooner than break of day and head out to the Al Bayt stadium – which price £620m to construct. By seven, the warmth is insufferable, however Kabir* works on, watering the grass and timber.

He didn’t know he can be running at a World Cup website when he got here to Qatar, however it does now not appear to passion him. “I’m not excited about the World Cup,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t think we can even go inside the stadium.”

The best factor that truly issues him is his wage. His circle of relatives will depend on his meagre source of revenue, however maximum of his wages cross against purchasing again the jewelry he gave to a moneylender as collateral so he may just find the money for the £1,170 rate for his activity.

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

The native World Cup setting up committee mentioned it had “stayed true to its commitment of utilising the World Cup to deliver lasting social changes for our workers, to improve their working and living conditions”.

It cited a variety of steps which have been taken to lift the running and residing requirements of employees, together with stepped forward lodging, measures to minimise employees’ publicity to warmth, regulation to introduce a minimal salary and permit employees to modify jobs, and a tracking machine to verify firms conform to the legislation.

“Individual cases of wrongdoing do not present a full and accurate picture of the changes that have taken place in Qatar, where thousands of companies have adjusted their work practices to comply with the new laws and regulations,” it added.

England’s Football Association mentioned: “Any questions relating to the stadiums to be used during Qatar 2022 should be directed to tournament organisers Fifa.” It pointed to an previous observation in which it mentioned: “We believe that there is evidence of substantial progress being made by Qatar in relation to workers’ rights. However, we recognise there is still more to be done.”

SAIC didn’t reply to requests for remark.

* Name has been modified to give protection to his id

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