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A case of Western hypocrisy

How the campaign for the rights of Qatar’s migrant workers has eluded a central protagonist: workers’ employers.

A rather strange approach

The Qatar World Cup has prompted Western media, NGOs and politicians to decry the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf state. A campaign focusing mainly on the work conditions of migrants constructing the stadiums started in 2010, immediately after Qatar was awarded the tournament hosting rights. The campaign is ongoing, currently calling on FIFA and Qatar to establish a remedy fund for abuses faced by migrant workers, “a comprehensive and participatory remedy process for worker abuse”.

The responsibility of the Qatar government in ensuring labour standards for migrant workers is undeniable, and the criticism received by the host country was well-deserved. Qatar itself admitted the abusive treatment of migrant workers and launched an extensive labour reform. Among others, Qatar introduced a minimum wage and abolished the kafala labour sponsorship system.

However, the campaign somehow eluded a central protagonist: With few exceptions (like the Committee Against Modern Slavery), no one has even mentioned the workers’ employers.

Who built the World Cup stadiums?

Qatar’s migrant workers are not public employees. They are employed by large companies, most of them Western-based multinational corporations.

In a single case, Stadium 974, the main project contractor of a World Cup stadium was a Qatari company (HBK Contracting). (The US-based Turner Construction managed Stadium’s project, though). Like most of Qatar’s big infrastructure projects, all the other seven stadiums were built by joint ventures of large foreign contractors with local companies.

  • Al Bayt Stadium

Project Manager: Projacs – a subsidiary of Egis (France)

Main Construction Contractors: Webuild SpA – formerly Salini Impregilo SpA (Italy), Cimolai (Italy), Galfar Al Misnad (Qatar).

  • Al-Janoub Stadium

Project Manager: KEO International Consultants (Kuwait)

Main Construction Contractors: Porr Qatar (a subsidiary of Vienna-based Porr AG),  Midmac (Qatar), Six Construct – a subsidiary of the BESIX Group (Belgium).

  • Khalifa International Stadium

Project Manager: Projacs – a subsidiary of Egis (France)

Main Construction Contractors: Porr (Austria), Midmac Contracting (Qatar),  and Six Construct (Qatar)

  • Education City Stadium

Project Manager: Astad Project Management (Qatar)

Main Construction Contractors: Joannou & Paraskevaides (Cyprus), Conspel (Qatar)

  • Al Thumama Stadium

Project Manager: Turner Construction Company (United States)

Main Construction Contractors: Tekfen Holding (Turkey), Al Jaber (Qatar)

  • Ahmad bin Ali Stadium Project Manager: AECOM (United States)

Main Construction Contractors: Larsen & Toubro (India), Al Balagh (Qatar),

  • Lusail Stadium

Project Manager: Turner Construction Company (United States)

Main Construction Contractors: China Railway Construction Corporation (China), HBK Contracting (Qatar)

Billions of dollars, zero responsibility

The entire campaign for the rights of migrant workers has focused exclusively on Qatar and FIFA. Even high-profile international NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have ignored the workers’ employers.

This is all the more significant because foreign companies employing migrant workers have been building not only the 2022 World Cup stadiums but also roads, highways, the metro and public buildings in Qatar.

Porr, one of the largest Austrian construction company, the constructor of Al Bayt and Khalifa International stadiums, is also the contractor of a line of the Doha Metro. The Green line is the largest order in Porr’s history, employing 4,000 migrant workers.

Porr’s partner, Besix, is Belgium’s largest construction company. Besix is also the contractor of Doha Expressway.

Webuild (former Salini Impregilo), Italy’s most prominent infrastructure group and Al Bayt Stadium contractor, has also been awarded contracts for Doha Metro Red Line and local roads.

And so on.

Such companies earned billions of dollars in Qatar and should have been held accountable for the work condition of their employees. However, the employers have largely been ignored by the countless reports on the migrants’ working conditions on the World Cup stadium’s construction sites.

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