Shocking exploitation found on Qatar fact finding mission

Shocking exploitation found on Qatar fact finding mission

Construction union UCATT have witnessed shocking exploitation and met workers living in appalling living conditions, during last week’s fact finding mission to Qatar.

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(Migrant worker accomodation in Qatar)

UCATT now plan to put further pressure on the Qatar Government and British based companies working in the country. The plight of the migrant workers will become increasingly high profile, as construction is now beginning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

UCATT met workers who were being paid less than £0.60 pence an hour and who were being paid a little over £50 a week, while being expected to work excessive hours, 6 days a week in temperatures up to 55 degrees in the summer. The levels of poverty pay are especially stark given that Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The 2 million migrant construction workers (principally from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) in Qatar work under the kafala system which means they are bonded labour. The workers have their passports confiscated and cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. For many workers this means that they cannot return home for at least two years. The workers also have to pay up to a thousand pounds each before they are allowed to work in Qatar, which are often financed through loans at very high interest rates.

Often workers do not receive the wages owed to them. During the mission UCATT met workers who had not been paid for five months.

UCATT also visited the accommodation provided for many of the workers and saw how workers live in abject squalor. UCATT met a group of nine workers who were expected to live in one tiny room measuring 10 square metres. Welfare facilities were entirely inadequate with just five poorly maintained toilets provided for 200 workers. The facilities for workers to prepare food were also atrocious. Workers report there is often no running water and they are forced to wash in sea water.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The treatment of migrant construction workers in Qatar is appalling. If animals were being treated in this way in Britain there would be a national outcry. The fact that this is happening overseas means that many companies are prepared to look the other way in the pursuit of profits.

Hundreds of migrant construction workers die in Qatar every year. In the last two years 500 Indian workers have died. Last year 195 Nepalese deaths were recorded 123 of these were recorded as being due to cardiac arrest. UCATT learnt that deceased workers do not receive a post mortem and if the death was recorded as natural causes then no compensation was paid.

Mr Murphy added: “The way that migrant workers are treated in Qatar demonstrates that those in power consider their lives to be cheap and expendable.”

The fact finding mission to Qatar was jointly organised with Building Workers International (BWI) the international federation of construction unions. The trip also included Labour MPs Chris Williamson and Stephen Hepburn.

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