Almost three decades ago, Qatar began working towards hosting the World Cup. In this time, the country has faced accusations of endangering foreign workers and restricting their rights. FIFA, the global governing body of football, has been pressed to take action. Its president, Sepp Blatter, initially dismissed the accusations. However, in recent years, Qatar has been under increasing scrutiny.
A report published by the international human rights research group Equidem found that major construction firms in Qatar had abused migrant workers. They were forced to work under sub-standard conditions, including inadequate nutrition and physical abuse. They also faced wage theft. According to the report, workers had no recourse to change jobs or leave the country. Many had no access to emergency medical care.
Five women who had worked in Qatar in the past two years detailed allegations of sexual harassment and physical abuse. The women also reported being denied basic medical facilities. In addition, some women were denied access to emergency contraception. They were required to obtain permission from male guardians. These guardians also have the authority to decide whether a female relative can marry or take certain government jobs.
The report also cited human trafficking problems in Qatar. The United States Department of State reported that Qatar did not meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The report also noted examples of authorities arresting people for immigration violations. In addition, the report highlighted restrictions on free expression and migrant workers’ freedom of movement. The report also highlighted a lack of investigations into gender-based violence.
The report also documented discriminatory male guardianship laws in Qatar. The laws allow for the male guardian to decide whether a female relative can marry and access reproductive health services. Women working in Qatar must receive permission from a male guardian before they can seek emergency contraception. If a woman is pregnant, she may face deportation and imprisonment.
Qatar’s migrant workers continue to endure labor exploitation and human rights violations. Many are forced to work in sweltering conditions and face a lack of access to basic health care. Many workers have died as a result of heat stress. Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee has denied allegations of abuse, but recent reporting suggests that abuses are still widespread.
A recent investigation by the Guardian revealed that at least 40 migrant workers died in Qatar over the last decade. The report did not include the deaths of migrants from other countries, but it is likely that the number is higher. Some of the workers were unable to leave the country and had their passports taken. Some companies concealed workers from the monitoring process. The Guardian found that the majority of migrant workers likely worked on the World Cup projects.
A number of female workers have also told the Guardian that they have been sexually harassed. The group interviewed five women who worked in Qatar over the past two years, and they all detailed similar allegations of verbal and physical abuse.