Guardian: Nepali workers in Qatar being used as slave labor

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Updated with new remarks from the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee

A leading British newspaper has run a front-page in-depth report and video examining the rising death toll of Nepali workers in Qatar.

The Guardian’s report, put together by Kathmandu-based journalist and teacher Pete Pattisson, focuses on the plight of young men from Nepal who often take out huge loans to work in Doha, only to arrive here to find lower salaries and poor living and working conditions.

The report suggests that the alleged “slave labor” abuses raise serious questions about Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, as many of these young men are working on projects related to the games: 

“The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.”

The Guardian refers to statistics obtained from the Nepal Embassy here, which states that July was the deadliest month on record for Nepalese expats in Qatar, with 32 deaths in all. 

Most of the deceased were construction workers in their 20s who died of cardiovascular disease, an embassy official told Doha News last month.

The report also includes a video with interviews of a Nepal-based family who wail as they receive the body of their child, a 16-year-old boy who obtained fake documents in order to secure a job in Qatar. He died just two months after he arrived in Qatar, apparently from cardiac arrest. 

 Also detailed in the report:

  • Evidence of forced labor at the Lusail City construction site;
  • Interviews with some Nepali expats who say they have not been paid for months, and have had their salaries withheld so they don’t run away;
  • The highlighting of illegal confiscation of passports and ID cards;
  • That some workers are not being allowed access to drinking water during their working day; and
  • That 30 Nepali men have sought refuge at their embassy in Doha, complaining of lack of pay and a failure of their company to process their residence permits.

Official responses

The newspaper has published responses from the Lusail Real Estate Development Company, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, the Labor Ministry and engineering firm Halcrow, who are all featured in the Guardian’s report.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee previously told the paper that it’s “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

UPDATE | 1:55pm

After the report was released, it issued another statement:

“Like everyone viewing the video and images, and reading the accompanying texts, we are appalled by the findings presented in The Guardian’s report.

There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner.   

The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar.”

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Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Lusail, where 18 workers were injured following a bridge collapse earlier this month, has said it’s taking the alleged abuses very seriously:

Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. We are extremely concerned at the allegations highlighted to us.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Ministry of Labor has responded by highlighting Qatar’s Labor Law, and the protection it provides to workers, detailing rules including the provision of water; restrictions on working during the hottest part of the day during the summer months; the provision of food and decent accommodation; and regular salary payments.

The Ministry of Labor added that it is “committed to ensuring that all workers are treated in a fair and just manner.”

You can read the full responses here.

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