Amnesty International has claimed that security guards in Qatar working on projects that include some linked to the 2022 World Cup have been subjected to conditions that amount to forced labour.
Amnesty International published a new report just days after the official draw for the tournament which documents the experiences of 34 employees from eight private security companies.
In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup 2022, there has been increased attention to the labour abuses and discrimination against women and LGBTI people in Qatar.
In the interviews conducted between April 2021 and February 2022, migrant workers describe working for months or even years on end without a day off.
Most said their employers refused to respect the weekly rest day which is required by Qatari law, and workers who took their day off faced being punished with arbitrary wage deductions.
A report in the Guardian in February 2021 said 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since the World Cup was awarded in 2010.
Amnesty says the workers were employed by private companies which provided services for sites including football stadiums, as well as other infrastructure projects essential for the World Cup.
At least three of the companies provided security for recent FIFA tournaments in Qatar, including the 2020 Club World Cup and the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup.
Amnesty also documented discrimination based on race, national origin and language.
Qatari law restricts weekly working hours to a 60-hour maximum, including overtime, with workers entitled to one full, paid rest day each week.
But Amnesty claimed 29 of the 34 security guards they spoke to said they regularly worked 12 hours a day, and 28 said they were routinely denied a day off, meaning many worked 84 hours per week, for weeks on end.
FIFA and World Cup organisers the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) both condemned the mistreatment of the workers.
The SC said that as a result of workers' welfare inspections, 391 contractors have been reported to the Ministry of Labour, 50 have been blocked from its projects, seven have been blacklisted, and workers have had millions of pounds in recruitment fees reimbursed.
In a statement, FIFA said it "does not accept any abuse of workers by companies involved in the preparation and delivery of the World Cup."
It added: "Following inspections during the Club World Cup and Arab Cup, contractors that failed to comply with the required standards were identified and the issues found addressed on the spot."
It also said that it would enforce compliance with the SC's Workers' Welfare Standards for more than 150 hotels in Qatar, as well as on pre-contract audits for other service companies at the World Cup, including security companies.
In 2017, Qatar embarked on what Amnesty calls "an encouraging agenda" to tackle labour issues - and has since introduced legal reforms to wages and migrant workers’ rights.
However, Amnesty claims these reforms "are not being effectively implemented."
Just last week, the Secretary-General of the 2022 Qatar World Cup said criticism by players and managers has been “ill-informed” and the nation “should not be apologetic” about hosting the tournament.
“If you look at the progress that’s been made over the last 12 years, I think that in itself does away with the concept of sports washing because actual progress has been made on the ground in relation to that,” Hassan Al-Thawadi said.
“There’s always more work to be done. Just like there’s more work to be done in England, just like there’s more work to be done throughout the rest [of the world]. I don’t think any country today in the world can claim that they have the ideal system in place.
“Always progress needs to be made. We acknowledge that progress needs to be made but what we asked was also to acknowledge the work that’s been done.”
Amnesty International is a non-governmental organisation, based in the United Kingdom, that campaigns against human rights abuses around the world.