As Qatar celebrates the opening of its first World Cup stadium today, rights group Amnesty International is warning officials to proceed with caution.
The group had uncovered human rights violations by contractors involved in Khalifa International Stadium renovations last year.
At the time, it stated that more than 100 expats had their passports confiscated and salary payments delayed.
A year later, an independent audit commissioned by World Cup organizers found many contractors are continuing to work their staff too hard.
For its part, tournament organizers said at the time that “while the findings clearly state there are challenges, they also demonstrate our continued commitment to this process. We will do everything necessary to ensure the issues identified are dealt with promptly.”
‘Urgent rethink’ needed
But in a statement yesterday, Amnesty urged more drastic action, raising the issue of Qatar’s restrictive labor laws.
James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues program, said:
“Migrant workers at Khalifa International Stadium have already suffered the consequences of Qatar and FIFA’s failure to genuinely address the dangers of Qatar’s sponsorship system.
An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup.”
Currently, about 10,000 people are working on World Cup projects in Qatar. That number is expected to surge to a peak of 36,000 workers by next year.
Notably, this is just a fraction of Qatar’s labor force, and many of these employees have far more favorable working and living conditions than their peers who work for smaller companies.
However, authorities are under pressure to ensure the rights of all workers in the run-up to 2022.
One litmus test for proper working and living conditions has been the fatality rate of World Cup employees.
So far, two people have died while working on stadium sites, including a British man who fell to his death at Khalifa Stadium.
However, earlier this month an Indian carpenter died of a heart attack he suffered shortly after leaving the stadium site, Reuters reports.
He is at least the fourth World Cup employee to have died of cardiac arrest in the past year and a half, the newswire states.
More should be done to find out whether these deaths are related to working conditions, rights groups have argued.
Speaking to Reuters yesterday, Gulf labor researcher Mustafa Qadri said:
“Workers dying suddenly from heart attacks is something we hear about often, the causes are not always clear.
But we’re moving now into the hottest time of the year when the risk of fatality increases. When a worker dies, Qatar needs to get to the bottom of what happened. People’s lives are in danger.”