Qatar worker deaths: Challange on Pakistan’s responsibility to protect human rights for its migrant workers


The FIFA president, Blatter has admitted world football cannot “turn a blind eye” to the deaths of hundreds of construction workers in Qatar as the country prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. And so far, the ITUC has warned that 4,000 construction workers could die before a ball is kicked if conditions do not improve for the labourers working on infrastructure projects worth an estimated £137bn before the 2022 tournament.

Alarming situation is as – they’re forced to live in squalor, they are indeed pushed to work in extreme heat, often left without enough water for very long hours and then they go home to cook food in unhygienic conditions, live 8, 10, 12 to a room, and even if they want to leave, if they’ve just had enough, they can’t go because the employer has to sign an exit visa or sign the papers to allow them to work for a better employer.

Those concerns were reignited by a report by Britain’s Guardian newspaper last month which alleged that thousands of Nepali migrant workers are enduring dire conditions, and that 44 died over the space of nine weeks this summer. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents, it said.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in February that Qatar “has not delivered on its pledges to improve migrant workers’ rights.”

In perspective of Pakistan’s government who has to follow the UN guiding principles on business and human rights – which place the responsibility on state to protect the human rights of its migrant workers, to see the matter with deep concern when Qatar’s demand 22% of two million workforce from Pakistan for its infrastructure projects for FIFA 2022 World Cup to be held in Doha. In preparation, Qatar will spend an estimated US$100 billion on infrastructure, including a new airport, roads, hotels and stadiums. Such huge construction project required an increase to the already large migrant-worker population, primarily from South Asian countries. The international media, unions and human rights organizations have shone a spotlight on abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar.  Major concerns include the exploitative “kafala” sponsorship system; lack of freedom of association / right to form unions; confiscation of passports; and harmful working and housing conditions.

The World Cup provides an opportunity to push for change.

The following references covers brief details about stakeholders i.e. companies who are engage with business, human rights groups & organizations, media investigations, trade unions and Qatar government responses.

Companies involved range from small and medium-sized labour recruitment agencies, to major construction and architecture firms.

– CH2MHill is the US company appointed to deliver construction for the 2022 World Cup.

– “Qatar’s migrant construction workers: what can be done?”, Will Hurst, Building (UK), 11 Oct 2013 With statements by the following UK construction firms that  are operating in Qatar: Arup, G&T, Buro Happold, Grimshaw, Aecom, Mace, WSP, Balfour Beatty

 Media investigations

– “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’ – Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022“, Pete Pattisson, Guardian (UK), 25 Sep 2013.  This is part of the Guardian’s website “Modern Day Slavery in Focus” which is supported in part by Humanity United.  New articles and stories on migrant workers in Qatar are added on a regular basis.

Trade unions

Building and Wood Workers International

BWI mission decries Qatar’s lack of urgency to stop abuses,” 10 Oct 2013


Campaign website: “Re-run the vote: No World Cup Without Workers’ Rights

“FIFA to discuss moving Qatar 2022 World Cup to winter months but remain silent on workers’ rights”, ITUC, 24 Sep 2013

Trade unions offer FIFA joint inspections in Qatar to address abuses of workers,” ITUC, 2 Oct 2013

Human rights organizations

Human Rights Watch

Report: “Building a Better World Cup – Protecting Migrant Workers in Qatar Ahead of FIFA 2022”, June 2012

Dispatches: Labor Abuses Haunt Qatar…and its Neighbors,” Adam Coogle, Middle East Researcher, 3 Oct 2013

Modern-day slavery in Qatar: there’s bad and good news,” Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf Researcher, 27 Sep 2013

Amnesty International

World Cup host Qatar must end ‘exploitation’: Amnesty”, AFP, 3 Oct 2013. “Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host under fire over claims of using forced labour, should end “exploitation” of workers by enforcing their protection and reforming laws, Amnesty International said. Existing laws in the Gulf emirate which stipulate the protection of migrant workers were being largely overlooked, said James Lynch, Amnesty’s researcher on foreign workers in the Gulf.”

Humanity United

Supporting the initiative “Modern Day Slavery in Focus

International agencies


Qatar failing on forced labour, says UN agency – International Labour Organisation says Qatar does not properly inspect migrant workers’ conditions despite signing convention”, Guardian, 27 Sep 2013


FIFA boss defensive over Qatar slavery claims,” AFP, 4 Oct 2013.  “Fifa cannot interfere with the labour rights of any country, but we cannot ignore them”, Blatter said on his Twitter account @SeppBlatter after Fifa wrapped up a crunch two-day meeting behind closed doors at its Zurich base.

World Cup 2022: football cannot ignore Qatar worker deaths, says Sepp Blatter,” Guardian, 4 Oct 2013. ‘The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter…said he would meet the new emir of Qatar to discuss the issue. But the Fifa president’s claim that it had no direct influence over the situation and that there was plenty of time to resolve the issue angered those campaigning for change on the ground.’

Qatar Government response and related commentaries

Qatar World Cup ‘slaves’: the official response – The company behind the Lusail City development, Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising committee and the labour ministry respond to allegations of worker exploitation,” Mona Mahmood, Guardian (UK), 25 Sep 2013

Qatar response to labour rights violations weak and disappointing”, ITUC, 1 Oct 2013

Commentary by Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf Researcher, Human Rights Watch, 27 Sep 2013 – says that change for migrant workers in Qatar “requires bold leadership, right from the top” – from Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim

– “Qatar: Perfecting the Art of Scoring Own Goals“, James M. Dorsey, in Daily News Egypt, 10 Oct 2013
– highlights lack of reporting by Al Jazeera on worker rights concerns related to World Cup 2022.

National Human Rights Committee in Qatar criticizes the country’s labour inspectors, The Penninsula (Qatar), 10 Oct 2013


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