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World Cup migrant workers still detained in Qatar: report

The Guardian has confirmed that three migrant workers from Pakistan and India arrested in January after their World Cup-related contracts were terminated remain in detention to this day.
Belgium's supporters with a banner to ask for protection of migrant workers' rights in Qatar.

BEIRUT — Three migrant workers at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar who were jailed by local authorities during a protest over unpaid wages are still detained, The Guardian reported on Friday.

Pakistan nationals Shakir Ullah and Zafar Iqbal and Indian national Tanveer Hussain were among hundreds of workers employed by Stark Security Services, a local security company, who were laid off with months left on their contracts.

On Jan. 23, around 400 workers who were mainly employed as security guards hired buses and headed to the headquarters of Festival Global, a company associated with Stark Security Services, to negotiate their termination. The staff there called the police, and eyewitnesses told Telegraph Sport back then that many workers were escorted by police to their accommodations to pack their belongings. Many were reportedly deported.

According to The Guardian, the three migrant workers were allegedly sentenced to six months in prison and fined 10,000 riyals ($2,746) each.

The paper interviewed nine security guards who were also laid off from Stark Security Services. The workers said they were fired with three months left on their contract.

According to the contract, which was reviewed by The Guardian, the employment period was to be six months. The workers were required to work seven days a week for a monthly salary of 2,700 riyals (around $742). They were also provided with food and accommodations. The 2020 amended labor law in Qatar stipulates that a one-month notice be given to employees before their contracts are terminated.

“We went to Qatar to earn money and make a better life for our family, but the company and authorities cheated us,” The Guardian cited a fired security guard from Pakistan as saying. “We felt so helpless.”

Equidem, a human rights organization headquartered in London, first reported the case of Ullah, Iqbal and Hussein to The Telegraph last week.

“We've spoken to 41 former Stark Security workers who have been deported, and we believe that three former employees, almost four months from when they were initially detained, have not been released,” Equidem researcher Jason Nemerovski told Telegraph Sport last week.

“We don't have any information as to their whereabouts, and none of the men we have interviewed have had any contact with them since they were initially detained in January,” he added, calling on Qatari authorities to reveal their fate.

Qatar has not commented on the case of the three men.

A spokesperson for the Qatar government’s international media office told The Guardian that Stark Security Services was found to have breached some provisions of Qatar’s labor laws, adding that the company would be penalized.

“Qatar does not arrest or deport workers for seeking to resolve their employment disputes. The rights of all individuals working in Qatar are upheld and protected through the fair and just application of legal due process,” the official added.

The case of the security guards is another black mark on Qatar’s rights record after coming under scrutiny ahead of and during the 2022 World Cup. Rights groups have repeatedly denounced alleged human rights abuses endured by the workers throughout the tournament.

Previous criticism

In a March report, Human Rights Watch found that the Gulf nation failed to protect migrant workers and their families who were subjected to various abuses, calling on both FIFA and the Qatari government to compensate them.

According to a 2021 Guardian report, more than 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar after the country was chosen to host the FIFA tournament. The Qatari government said that 30,000 foreign workers were employed to build World Cup stadiums.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino raised controversy during a speech last year seen as downplaying the abuses and violations suffered by migrant workers in Qatar.

“We in Europe, we close our borders and we don’t allow practically any worker from those countries, who earn obviously very low income, to work legally in our countries,” Infantino said at a news conference in Doha in November.

“But this moral-lesson giving, one-sided — it is just hypocrisy,” he added.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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