In its latest accusations against Qatar over the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Amnesty International said that dozens of migrant workers were left unpaid for months in the city of Lusail which will host the final of the tournament. According to the London-based rights group, engineering firm Mercury MENA “failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless” in the country.
Amnesty alleged that at least 78 employees from Nepal, India and the Philippines were not paid since February 2016 and were owed approximately $2,000 (1,700 euros) each. The human rights organisation said that the failure to pay the workers had “ruined lives”.
One of the workers, Ernesto, who hails from the Philippines, told Amnesty that he is more in debt now than he was before he started working in the country two years ago. Other labourers from Nepal were also forced to make their children drop out of school – or sell land – to repay their debts incurred due to working in Qatar.
“By ensuring they get the wages which they are owed, Qatar can help these migrant workers to rebuild their lives,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s director of global issues, said.
The statement from Amnesty added that Mercury MENA “took advantage” of the ‘Kafala’ system in Qatar, which prevents the workers from changing jobs or leaving the country without getting permission from the bosses. It further adds that the workers had to leave the country at their own cost.
Footballing body FIFA has denied the claims made by Amnesty, citing them as “misleading”. The body added that the non-payments were not connected to the 2022 tournament.
“We have no reason to believe the reported violations of workers’ rights are in fact linked to FIFA and the 2022 World Cup,” a FIFA spokesperson told AFP. “We regret Amnesty chose to frame its statement in such a misleading manner,” he added.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place in Qatar in 2022 between November 21, 2022, and December 18, 2022, across 8 to 12 cities.