|Starving Chinese, South Asian building workers in Qatar demand overdue wages and food
Migrants including Chinese who have worked for nearly a year without pay on a Qatar skyscraper are facing “severe food shortages'' and cannot leave or seek other employment, Amnesty International said.
(Pictured, migrant workers at a Qatar building site).
Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup, has come under scrutiny for the conditions of migrant workers face in the construction industry, AFP reports.
Amnesty urged Qatar’s authorities to address the plight of 80 migrant workers, mostly from Nepal, who are working for the Lee Trading and Contracting company, saying they are “working in conditions that may amount to forced labor.''
“They have not been paid for nearly a year and can't even buy food to sustain themselves on a day-to-day basis. They also can't afford to send money back home to their families or to pay off debts,'' said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
The group includes 60 Nepalese as well as others from Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nigeria, China and Bangladesh.
They have been working on floors 38 and 39 of Doha's Al-Bidda Tower, known as “Qatar's Home of Football'' because a number of sports organizations have offices there, Amnesty said.
Amnesty said it had seen documentation showing LTC owes the workers 1.5 million riyals (US$412,000) for the work, completed in October.
“'Do the work and we'll pay you tomorrow,' they said,'' Amnesty quoted a Nepalese laborer as saying.
“We kept doing the work and they kept changing the date and we never got paid.''
The rights group said the workers had filed cases against LTC in Doha's Labor Court but were asked to pay fees of 600 riyals (US$165) each.
The workers told Amnesty the court rejected their petitions for the fees to be waived, and Amnesty said under Qatari law they should have been exempted.
Amnesty said the workers are facing severe food shortages after the company stopped giving them a 250-riyal (US$69) monthly food allowance in October, and that last month several of the men complained of hunger.
Neither government spokesmen nor LTC representatives could be reached for comment on Amnesty's findings.
Qatar last month said foreign allegations of abuse of migrant workers working on World Cup facilities were “exaggerated'' but insisted it took such claims seriously.