Migrant workers employed as security guards in a huge park at the heart of Qatar’s World Cup festivities claim to be paid as little as 35p an hour.
The men are stationed across Al Bidda park, a sprawling green space in Doha linked to the nearby Fifa fan festival.
Throughout the tournament, fans will flock to the park in between games to enjoy the views and soak up the beautiful Doha skyline.
But long after the fans head home for the day, the security guards – who are not employed by Fifa or considered part of the festivities – will be forced to stay in the park all night long, working 12-hour shifts for shockingly low pay.
Speaking to the Guardian, security staff claimed to receive just one day off a month, and said travelling fans will likely see more of Doha in a week than they will in years.
‘We just go between our duty and our accommodation,’ said one guard whilst holding out his phone. ‘You can show me anywhere in Qatar and I won’t know where it is.’
The claims come on the eve of the controversial World Cup, which has seen Qatar face international condemnation over its extremely strict interpretation of Islam which restricts women’s rights and criminalises members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The Gulf nation has also drawn criticism for its ban on public displays of affection, along with its last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol at stadiums throughout the event.
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Analysis done by the Guardian suggests migrant workers are paid as little as 1330 rials (£310) per month for 348 hours of work, along with a small food allowance.
They are required to work 104 hours of overtime in the process, for which they receive just 150 rials.
This equates to around just 35p an hour, which is technically in violation of Qatar’s labour laws.
‘It’s illegal, but the government keeps quiet, so what can we do?’ said one migrant worker.
Meanwhile, another said: ‘We put up with it because we need the money.’
Technically, Qatar’s labour reforms mean the Al Biddaa park guards should be allowed to request a transfer to a different job, but workers say the process is extremely difficult in practice and claim they still need their employer’s permission to seek other work.
‘If they gave [permission] … 90% would have changed jobs,’ one worker said. ‘Even when we are sleeping, we dream of changing our job,’ a colleague added.
Furthermore, guards all said they had been forced to pay illegal recruitment fees in the region of £1,175-£1,650 to recruiters in their home countries in order to secure the jobs, effectively requiring them to work for five months just to pay off the fees.
And while football fans can expect to stay in luxury hotels during their time in Doha, a reporter visiting a migrant camp on the edge of the desert found workers crammed into four-bed rooms with no lockers or personal space.
Qatar has faced serious allegations of migrant worker abuse since first being awarded the World Cup back in 2010, with around 6,500 workers thought to have died of exhaustion building the stadiums and infrastructure required to host the tournament in the blistering heat.
In April, a damning report from Amnesty International UK found that abuses in the Qatari private security sector are ‘systematic and structural’.
It claimed that one Bangladeshi security guard worked for three years without a day off.
‘Physically and emotionally exhausted, workers kept reporting for duty under threat of financial penalties – or worse, contract termination or deportation,’ the report read.
‘Despite the progress Qatar has made in recent years, our research suggests that abuses in the private security sector – which will be increasingly in demand during the World Cup – remain systematic and structural.’
Responding to the allegations in the report, a Qatari government official said: ‘Over the past decade, extensive action has been taken to combat exploitative labour practices and provide accessible channels for workers to make complaints… When violations are recorded, corrective action is taken, and offending companies are penalised.
‘Systemic change does not happen in an instant – it takes time to transform a labour market. In other countries, this was a decades-long process, and in many countries – including in Europe – this process is still ongoing.
‘Hundreds of thousands of workers have benefited from our labour reforms, and our commitment to improving the lives of every expatriate who has made Qatar a second home will continue long after the World Cup.’
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