Migrant workers in Qatar out of debt after being ordered back home ahead of the World Cup | Qatar


TThe homes of low-wage migrant workers in Qatar were forced to return home before world Cupleaving many fearful of being left without a job, unable to provide for their families, and mired in debt.

In some cases, workers say they were sent back before their contracts expired or without receiving their full salaries or bonuses.


Moves to return migrant workers to their countries of origin before the start FIFA The tournament appears to be linked to a government circular, published last year and seen by the Guardian, which ordered some contractors to complete all work by mid-September and prepare a furlough scheme that would “further reduce the number of workers in the country” in the run-up to the World Cup.

On the wide corniche overlooking the Gulf in Doha, a red clock in the shape of the Qatar World Cup logo counts the days until the tournament kicks off.

When he visited the Guardian in the summer, Hundreds of migrant workers in blue overalls were working in the stifling humidity Completion of the renovation of a popular walkway and the adjacent road known as the Corniche, which is expected to be a destination for thousands of tourists and football fans once the tournament starts.

The Guardian interviewed 25 workers who work on the Corniche. Most said they had expected to stay in Qatar for two years, but were sent home much sooner – in some cases just 10 months later. Many of those interviewed have now returned to their countries.

Some of the workers who spoke to the Guardian They said they had not worked long enough to pay off the huge sums – the equivalent of four or five months’ basic salary in Qatar – that they had borrowed to pay recruitment agents in their home countries to secure their jobs in Qatar.

An hour on the Doha Corniche counts the days until the start of the Qatar World Cup 2022.
An hour on the Doha Corniche counts the days until the start of the Qatar World Cup 2022. Photography: Pete Pattison/The Guardian

We don’t want to go back. “We are poor, so we need to work,” said a Nepalese worker. They were forced to pay the equivalent of nearly £1,000 in illegal recruitment fees to secure the job. I haven’t paid the fees yet. I would be at a loss if I was sent back.”

Others remained in confusion, saying they had been sent home but told they might be recalled after the World Cup. They now face up to six months without pay while they wait to see if they will be able to return.

All workers interviewed said they had no choice but to leave. “Many have already been sent and others are on the list. If your name is on the list, you should go,” one said.

Many blamed the World Cup for the sudden end of their work. “Everyone will come back because of the World Cup. It doesn’t matter how long I have been here,” one of them said. “What can I do? I am helpless. “

Ali’s supporters* said he paid an agent in India 100,000 rupees (£1,050) to secure his job. To bear the fees, he borrowed the money at a steep 10% interest rate, but calculated that over two years he could pay off the debt while still earning enough to support his wife and two sons.

But only 10 months after his arrival in Qatar, he was now expecting to be sent back to his homeland at any moment. “I don’t know when I will be sent, but I know I will have to go. Two or three of my friends have already been notified.

“How am I going to live when I get back? How am I going to pay my debts?” he asked as he walked to an exchange house to exchange Qatari riyals for Indian rupees.

Workers interviewed by the Guardian are being employed by UrbaCon Trading & Contracting Company (UCC) and InfraRoad, two subsidiaries of UCC Holding, on a project to modernize the corniche.

Most of the affected workers appear to have been hired on short-term “project visas”, but said they were told they would work for at least two years. InfraRoad messages offering jobs to workers in August 2021 – following the publication of the government circular – appear to support this.

Letters promise annual leave and return airfare after two years, and require a two-month notice period after two or more years of service.

Some workers blamed recruitment agencies in their home countries for falsely promising a two-year contract. Others said the responsibility rests with the contractor. One says, “It’s the company’s fault that they reached an agreement with the agent.”

search by mig-rights.organ organization that advocates for the rights of migrant workers in the Gulf, has recently uncovered similar cases among workers It was brought back to Nepal by a number of the largest construction companies in Qatar.

Some workers told mig-rights.org they did not receive their full pay, overtime pay or severance benefits. Others said they were sent home before their contracts expired.

One of them, who has worked in Qatar for 12 years, including a number of World Cup stadiums, said: “How wonderful it would be for workers like me to watch matches in the stadiums we made ourselves. But who cares about us? There is no value for workers in that country. I feel that The World Cup is an event for the wealthy only.”

“It is critical for the Qatari government to put workers’ rights at the forefront of any decisions and ensure that the people who made Qatar’s dream to host this World Cup do not face more opportunities,” said May Romanos, Gulf researcher at Amnesty International. as a result “.

A Qatari official said in a statement that there was no government requirement for companies to return their employees or reduce their workforce before the World Cup.

“Any independent actions by companies to reduce their workforce should be taken in accordance with the law and should not adversely affect the welfare of employees,” she said.

The statement also stated that the labor law allows employers and employees to terminate the contract before the end of its term as long as they adhere to the legal notice period. She added that foreign workers have the right to change their jobs if their contract is terminated and legal procedures exist if the employee does not receive their wages or bonuses at the end of their contract.

The Qatari government also said a fund to support workers, including by paying unpaid wages or benefits, paid 152.5 million pounds by last month.

The official added, “The State of Qatar is committed to a fair and efficient labor system, and we appreciate the indispensable role of foreign workers in our economy and the broader society.”

UCC Holdings did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

*Name has been changed to protect his identity

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