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Amnesty criticizes 'exploitation' of World Cup laborers in Qatar

Amnesty International has documented "alarming" human rights abuses against World Cup laborers in Qatar. Migrant laborers face dangerous work conditions and live in squalid quarters, according to Amnesty.

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In a report published on Sunday, the London-based human rights group strongly condemned what it called the "ruthless exploitation" of migrant workers in Qatar, calling it "inexcusable" that laborers in the wealthy Gulf kingdom had been "left struggling to survive."

"Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar," Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said in a press release. "FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup."

Migrant workers, predominantly from South Asia, have flocked to Qatar to build a $220-billion (163-billion-euro) infrastructure expansion ahead of the 2022 World Cup. But according to the Amnesty report, there are few safeguards to protect these workers at jobsites and they are often at the mercy of their employers.

Pay withheld

Shetty said that Amnesty researchers in the Qatari capital, Doha, had met 70 laborers from Nepal, Sri Lanka and other countries who had not been paid for up to 10 months.

Amnesty researchers also said that they witnessed 11 cases in which migrant workers were forced to sign documents in front of government officials falsely stating that they had been paid. In Qatar, migrant workers are sponsored by an individual or firm before entering the country and must receive an exit visa before leaving the Gulf kingdom.

Poor living, work conditions

A Doha hospital told Amnesty that more than 1,000 people had been admitted to its trauma unit in 2012 after falling from a height at work. Ten percent of those admitted had become disabled and the mortality rate was "significant." In September, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that 44 Nepalis had died working in Qatar this year.

Companies also regularly ignored a ban on working outside during the scorching summer months, according to Amnesty. Workers were often required to work 12-hour shifts in areas exposed to the sun.

"Employers in Qatar have displayed an appalling disregard for the basic human rights of migrant workers," Shetty said. "Many are taking advantage of a permissive environment and lax enforcement of labor protections to exploit construction workers."

Amnesty also described the migrant workers' living conditions as "squalid," without air conditioning and often overcrowded.

"Unless critical, far-reaching steps are taken immediately, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who will be recuited in the coming years to deliver Qatar's vision face a high risk of being abused," Shetty said.

slk/jm (AP, AFP)

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