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10 December 2022 – Qatar

Middle East Monitor, “Qatar Deports Migrant Workers Protesting Unpaid Salaries Constructing World Cup Stadiums,” 24 August 2022,
Middle East Monitor, “Qatar Deports Migrant Workers Protesting Unpaid Salaries Constructing World Cup Stadiums,” 24 August 2022,

On 7 December, a Filipino worker reportedly died while carrying out repairs at a training facility in Qatar used by the Saudi Arabian football team, marking the latest in a series of work-related incidents connected to the Qatar World Cup. According to the Guardian, approximately 6,500 migrant workers from five countries have died since Qatar was awarded the World Cup (a figure that includes migrant workers who were not working directly on World Cup projects). In comparison, Qatar’s authorities have reported that “between 400 and 500” migrants have died while working on World Cup-related projects, but that a precise figure was still “being discussed.”

In addition to the appalling human toll that the World Cup has had on migrant workers in the country, the Qatari government’s lack of clarity about the impact on foreign labourers has underscored its seeming lack of transparency with respect to immigration policies (the GDP and its partner have repeatedly issued information requests to relevant Qatari authorities about their migration-related detention practices without receiving any response to date).

Qatar has long relied on a large migrant labour force. The number of migrant workers surged in 2014 as a result of labour demands related to the World Cup preparations. As of 2019, an estimated 95 percent of the country’s total labour force are foreign migrant workers, with many working within construction or as domestic workers. Criticisms of the way in which foreign workers are treated in the country have long been levelled at Qatari authorities, including the fact that many face dire living and working conditions. Complaints have included unsanitary and overcrowded accommodation, long working hours, exorbitant recruitment fees, and labour under extreme heat stress. As the former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch tweeted in August: “Qatar is so hot in the summer that the World Cup was moved to November, but many migrants worked year-round to build 8 new stadiums.”

Particularly controversial has been the country’s Kafala (“sponsorship”) system, which has prompted repeated criticisms from international organisations and human rights groups for enabling and encouraging the exploitation of workers. This system, which is common across the Gulf, ties workers to their employers and requires employers to give permission for workers to change jobs or to leave the country. This exposes workers to exploitation—or, if they do leave their employer, leaves them vulnerable to detention and deportation.

Since 2017, considerable international pressure has prompted authorities to initiate various labour reforms in Qatar—including reforms in 2018 and 2020 making important changes to the Kafala system. However, as rights groups such as Amnesty International have highlighted, although the 2018 and 2020 reforms mean that most migrant workers can now leave the country or change jobs without permission, workers still face detention and deportation if their employer cancels their visa, fails to renew their residency visa, or reports them as having absconded. This year, Amnesty has documented numerous instances in which employers filed absconsion cases in retaliation against workers lodging complaints with the Ministry of Labour regarding poor working conditions and other employment abuses.

Migrant workers have also been detained and deported for protesting against issues including wage theft. In August 2022 for example, authorities detained and deported at least 60 migrant workers protesting outside Al Bandary International Group’s office in Doha. The workers accused the company of withholding their salary for up to seven months. The number of migrant workers being deported prior to the World Cup’s kick-off also grew substantially—reportedly the result of a Qatari plan to “maximise the reduction in the number of workers in the country” in the run up to the tournament. According to the Guardian, migrants’ contracts were terminated early and workers sent home—often leaving migrants in significant debt, having not worked long enough to repay the huge sums paid to recruitment companies to secure jobs in the country.

The GDP has recorded the use of one dedicated immigration detention facility in Qatar—the Deportation Detention Centre in Doha. In a 2019 submission by Qatar to the Committee on Migrant Workers, the country described the facility as a “model temporary detention centre” and as being equipped with “the most up-to-date means” for detainees, including modern and air-conditioned accommodation, health services, and recreational services. However, former detainees depict a different picture including bed-bug riddled mattresses and overcrowding. Migrant workers are also detained in police stations, although police custody is usually short-term before the person is transferred to another facility.

Those highlighting the dire treatment of migrant workers ahead of the World Cup have also faced retribution in the country. One whistleblower, Abdullah Ibhais, was formerly employed as a communications director for Qatar’s World Cup organisers (a governmental body, the “Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy”) but was jailed in 2021 in what he and his supporters believe was a retaliation for his criticism of the Supreme Committee’s treatment of migrant workers. According to his family, Ibhais was also tortured in the days leading up to the start of the tournament. In a letter, his family allege that he spent four days “in complete darkness in solitary confinement after being physically assaulted.”