Amnesty International reports Qatar’s migrant workers are still unpaid and abandoned

Amnesty International reports Qatar’s migrant workers are still unpaid and abandoned

Mercury Mena is involved in constructing the infrastructure of 2022 FIFA World Cup and investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that the company has taken advantage of Qatar’s sponsorship system and continued to exploit large number of migrant workers.

The report detailed by Amnesty also analyses more than 78 cases of former Mercury MENA workers that exposed series of abuses committed by the company such as not paying wages as promised on their contract, not receiving their wages or having any work or health benefits, they also did not provide legal documentations (labourers passport are retained with the company, thus restricting freedom of movement) all these actions have left them stranded in the state of Qatar with no money in their pockets. Qatar’s 2017 reform was made to ensure fair pay, provide for decent working conditions and provide freedom to employees to change jobs at their will.  Amnesty International has called on the Qatari government to reform the “kafala sponsorship system” that has allowed en-numerous companies to exploit migrant workers. Majority of these migrant workers are from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal or India, and travel agents in these countries have lured these workers with the promise of good pay, accommodation and other benefits.

While workers are dying due to heat, health or starvation complications, Qatar’s infrastructure is nothing less than prestigious – each stadium is built to be a world class facility, including the “future city” of Lusail where the World Cup will start and close. These workers are desparately waiting for compensation so they could return home.

Amnesty revealed that according to their research wages were not paid as frequently in 2016 and delays became persistent in 2017 as well. Most of the workers did not have residence permits, which led to the workers paying more fines and additionally did not let them leave the country. These former workers were interviewed by Amnesty have stated that were owed US$1,370 and US$2,470 (QAR 5,000 and 9,000) in salaries and benefits. Many workers are not only facing issues of debts but also not receiving food or health benefits.

Temperatures in Doha soar to more than 50 degrees Celsius and though the law states that workers shouldn’t work during noon they have continued to work for more than 12 hours in a shift. Most doctors haven’t publicly reported but have seen a rise in the number of deaths occurring due to sudden heart attack. Sudden heart attack occurs when the body over works and doesn’t get enough REM sleep to recover. The workers work in extremely hot environment and then when they get back from their long day at work do not get enough space to sleep, as many workers are overpopulated to into every room, the Air conditioning system doesn’t work and cause of that the body is still heated and doesn’t get enough of rest. Doctors reported that with the amount of physical activity they do if they don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep along with the right nutrition, they will have a heart attack and die in their sleep an hour later. There is no way to recover from a sudden heart attack and almost one worker per week dies cause of this.

Amnesty reported “All workers we spoke to say that Mercury MENA failed to honour repeated promises that they would be repaid, including promises made when they left Qatar. One of the workers, who communicated regularly on WhatsApp with his Mercury MENA supervisor about recovering five months of unpaid wages when he was in Qatar, says that once he arrived back in Nepal in October 2017 he never heard from his work supervisor again. Researchers also listened to recorded Whatsapp messages from Mercury MENA supervisors advising the workers to return home and wait for payment of their wages. Today, some workers believe that they were deliberately encouraged to return home to make it easier for the company to avoid paying them.”

Upon approaching the Qatari government and relevant authorities Amnesty International published the response of the government: