At least 60 foreign workers were detained, according to a report and advocacy group
FIFA World Cup host Qatar arrested at least 60 foreign workers that were protesting late pay and also deported some of them, according to an advocacy group.
Qatar has faced international scrutiny over its labor practices since being named the host of the international football tournament, and like many other Gulf Arab countries, relies heavily on foreign laborers from countries such as India and the Philippines.
Video footage shared online shows around 60 workers angrily protesting having gone as many as seven months without pay outside the Al Bandary International Group’s Doha offices on August 14.
The Al Bandary International Group is a conglomerate that includes construction, hotel, real estate, and food service ventures among others under its umbrella.
And while it hasn’t responded to a request from the Associated Press to comment on the matter, the Qatari government has acknowledged that the company hadn’t paid the workers their salaries and promised that the country’s Labor Ministry would pay «all delayed salaries and benefits.»
«The company was already under investigation by the authorities for nonpayment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed,» the government added, while also saying that a number of protesters were «detained for breaching public safety laws» to the AP.
Reacting to the developments, the executive director of human and labor rights group Equidem, Mustafa Qadri, asked: «Is this really the reality coming out?»
After they blocked an intersection in front of Doha’s Shoumoukh Tower on the city’s C Ring Road, the protesters were arrested and then held in a detention center in intense heat without air conditioning according to accounts relayed to Qadri.
As Doha’s temperature reached around 41 degrees celsius last week, Qadri said that police told those apprehended that if they can strike in hot weather, they can also sleep without air conditioning.
In uncorroborated comments, one detained worker explained to Equidem that he had seen up to 300 colleagues at the detention centers from countries such as India, the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Egypt with some of them paid salaries after the protest and others not.
Past protests have seen some foreign workers deported, with their employment contracts often tied to residency visas and the right to form unions limited only to Qataris.
Qatar has made some progress in improving employment practices since being awarded the right to host FIFA’s showpiece tournament in 2010.
Adopting a minimum wage of $275 for workers and making sure they have food and housing allowances, the country has also eliminated its ‘kafala’ system that tied workers to employers given the final word in whether they could leave their jobs and in some cases, Qatar itself.
Qadri is among the prominent voices that have pushed authorities in Doha to do more for workers and posed: «Have we all been duped by Qatar over the last several years?»
Qadri claimed that recent reforms might have provided «cover» for the Qatari government to allow common practices to continue.
Against this backdrop of controversy coupled with other hot topics such as migrant deaths and the treatment of the LGBTQ community, the World Cup is set to get underway on November 20.