Qaṭar: GCHR mission to Qatar finds grave violations against migrant workers


A Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) mission to Qatar has documented grave violations of the civil and human rights of foreign workers. According to testimony by a number of migrant workers, these violations begin in their home countries when they are selected to travel and work in Qatar, and continue when they arrive and work there.

Following the mission, GCHR issues important recommendations to the Government of Qatar and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) aimed at protecting migrant workers from any discrimination or abuse and giving them the opportunity to build a healthy and rich life for themselves and their families.

Violations at the recruitment stage

Migrant workers pay huge sums in their home countries to brokers or employment companies in order to be selected for travel and work in Qatar. However, when they arrive, they are surprised by the meager wages they are paid, the poor living conditions, in which they are crammed in large numbers in overcrowded and poorly maintained housing, in addition to the lack of proper health care.

GCHR interviewed a number of migrant workers who did not wish to be named, for fear of reprisals, as has happened to some of those who expressed their views publicly in the past.

 B.S. from Uganda says, "I paid USD $2,000 in fees for registration, training and medical examinations to be accepted to travel and work in Qatar, a very large sum in my country that I had to borrow from a large number of relatives and friends." There are others who paid more than double this amount in other countries and their expectations were not met when they arrived in Qatar.

Derogatory treatment during travel

Those selected to travel to Qatar were forced to wear a special T-shirt with information about the employer on the back, and were placed next to each other in the back of the plane. S.D. from Uganda says, "This is my first trip outside my country, and I wished I was allowed to wear my own clothes, but the instructions were explicit that wearing this shirt is mandatory." He added, "Forcing us to sit together at the back of the plane was a taste of insult to all of us. We do not know why we faced this unjustified discrimination, and why we were not allowed to sit wherever we wanted on the plane like the rest of the passengers."

Housing violations

Inadequate housing that lacks the necessary sanitary conditions is a chronic problem for most migrant workers in Qatar. M.Y. from India says with pain, "All of our company’s workers are accommodated with 5-6 of them in one room of a building that crowded up to 200 of us. We have no privacy whatsoever, and the sanitary facilities are in poor condition. When we went to complain, they told us in the text, ‘Whoever does not like housing should live on the street’."

Lack of health care  

Most migrant workers in Qatar, including female housekeeping workers, are uninsured and have to pay for treatment and health care costs from their meager income. Also, in cases where employers provide health insurance for migrant workers, the amount they pay for treatment requirements is very little. H.T. from Ethiopia says, "I developed an acute respiratory infection, and despite the fact that health insurance was part of the work contract that I signed, the company I work for only paid $100 of my treatment expenses."

Non-payment of salaries for several months

N.R. from Kenya says, "I paid a lot to come here, and it's been five months and despite my hard work I haven't been paid yet." As for S.M. from the Philippines, he stated, "After six months of non-payment of my salary by the security company in which I was working, I had to leave work and look for another job, and my dues were never paid by the old company."

GCHR’s mission found that late or non-payment of salaries is a persistent problem for thousands of migrant workers in Qatar.

Women housekeeping workers living in conditions tantamouont to slavery, facing sexual assault

The mission spent a long-time interviewing women housekeeping workers and documented their exposure to grave violations without them being provided with any legal or health support, nor an opportunity to obtain their rights and bring the perpetrators to justice. Nor were they offered fair compensation, in addition to the lack of concern shown by their employers for their well-being and care. Many of them live in conditions tantamount to slavery and some reported being sexually assaulted.

M.R. is a young woman of only 23 years old, who arrived in Qatar after she paid a large sum that burdened her family. She told the mission, “Since the beginning of my work in this house, I have faced great challenges, including lack of food, constant harassment and abuse, and delays in my meager salary of only $200 [per month]." She further said, "There is also disrespect for me by the head of the family and most of the family members, and false accusations against me. I have no day off, and continuous work for 18 hours." She explained, "I have no freedom at all, and even if I am sick I have to work." Finally, she added, "Recently, the unthinkable happened and broke my psyche from the inside. One of the sons raped me, and no action was taken despite my complaint to the employer. Now I live in shame and have lost my dignity, and all I want is to go back to my country after the end of duration of the contract, as the employer refused to give me the necessary no-objection letter to move to another job.”

The mission met with a number of other young women housekeeping workers, and they agreed with everything that their colleague M.R. had mentioned and stressed that there is no clear mechanism for submitting a legal complaint, and the only solution currently that guarantees that they will not be deported is to remain silent about the violations they are exposed to while working in private homes.

Long working hours, low salaries, lack of incentives and denial of annual leave

The wages paid to migrant workers are not commensurate with the long hours and hard work they perform. Q.S. from Ghana said, "I work 14 hours a day, including five overtime that are never paid." He explained, "They don't appreciate your potential because of the colour of your skin. If you apply for a higher position or any promotion, your application will be rejected, and you won't get the same treatment as others from Western countries." As for M.Y. from Nepal, he says, "The work is very endless, and the salaries that are paid to me and my colleagues are very low, ranging between $400-$500 dollars [per month], and you cannot travel to your country on vacation until after the end of the contract term."

Workers in the construction sector, including World Cup facilities, work long hours

Migrant workers in the construction sector, including World Cup 2022 facilities, suffer from widespread violations of their rights. They are forced to work long continuous hours and are given very little salaries, which, despite their meager amount, are not paid until after a great delay. T.N. from Bangladesh says, "My salary is $300 [per month], and I have been working non-stop for two years and I have not been allowed to take any vacation. We live in a dirty building that is crowded with us, and whoever gets sick will not be thought of."

As for S.A. from Kenya, he says, "I work 18 hours a day, and I live in a narrow room with six other workers. My salaries are always late, and my salary is $500 dollars [per month], which is better than many, but it is very little and does not fit with my great experience, which extends for decades. It hurts me so bad that I don't have health insurance and I have to pay out of my savings to get proper medical care."

Denial of the right to form trade unions and the right to demonstrate peacefully

T.S. from Pakistan says, "I and colleagues in the company I work for tried to establish a union that would represent us and defend our rights. It didn't take long for me to be called by the employer and told frankly that if I didn't stop immediately, I risk losing my job and being deported within 24 hours." He added, "I didn't understand what was going on, but I told my colleagues about it, and we decided to stop, as we had no other choice."

Also, the security authorities in Qatar, led by the notorious State Security apparatus, known for its severe repressive policies, do not give citizens or migrant workers the right to peaceful assembly.

On 14 August 2022, dozens of migrant workers from countries such as Egypt, Nepal, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines organised a demonstration in the capital, Doha, demanding the payment of their salaries, including some of them who were not paid for seven months. The security forces dispersed the demonstration by force, arrested dozens of protesters in a police station, and deported nearly 60 of them to their countries.  

The security forces have extensive capabilities to arrest anyone who thinks of peaceful and civilised demonstrations to demand their rights, but they do not have the will or desire to bring to justice those who commit grave violations against migrant workers, including domestic workers.


Based on the findings of its recent mission, GCHR recommends to the Qatari government, as it prepares to hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November, to enact a law that protects all migrant workers, including those who work in homes. The authorities must seriously take steps to bring to trial all those who have committed grave violations against migrant workers;  compensate them commensurately for what they have been subjected to; and set up strict legal mechanisms that provide them with legal protection that prevents them from being subjected to such violations again.

Authorities in Qatar should grant  migrant workers the right to set up unions that represent them and defend their rights, as stated in Article (23) Paragraph (4) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and they must also protect their right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful demonstration as stated in the same declaration. In addition, the authorities must ensure that workers are completely free to move from one job to another that provides them with a better life.

The relevant authorities should make strenuous efforts to put an end to the heinous exploitation of expatriate workers, as well as ensure that they have adequate housing and adequate health insurance upon their arrival in Qatar, and punish all employers who delay payment of financial dues to them.

The Qatari government, in cooperation with other stakeholders, led by FIFA, and in consultation with representatives of migrant workers who have suffered harm because of their work in the World Cup facilities in Qatar, should provide them all with the compensation they deserve.