An Amnesty International report on Wednesday exposed how an engineering company involved in building 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar did not pay its workers, and exploited many of them.
The company, Mercury MENA, “failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless,” according to the report.
The organization is calling on the Qatari government to ensure that former employees of Mercury MENA receive the money they earned, and to fundamentally reform the “kafala” sponsorship system that has allowed numerous companies to exploit migrant workers, as documented by Amnesty International and others since 2013.
According to France24, Amnesty said that at least 78 employees from Nepal, India and the Philippines had not been paid since February 2016 and were owed an average of $2,000 (1,700 euros) — for some the equivalent of several months’ wages.
The report added that this had “ruined lives”, and pushed some to take out huge loans to secure a job in the Gulf state.
One worker, Ernesto, a piping foreman from the Philippines, told Amnesty he was in greater debt after working in Qatar for two years than before he arrived in the country.
Mercury MENA helped build Lusail city, which is also the venue for the 2022 football tournament’s opening match, as well as helped build a showcase stadium that was an integral part of Qatar’s winning presentation to FIFA in December 2010.
The findings come at a time when the World Cup host is under intense scrutiny over labor rights.
Earlier this month, Doha said it would abolish exit permits — a cornerstone of the kafala system likened to modern-day slavery — but has not given a date for when this will come into force.