World Cup slave labour: How migrant workers on $30 a day endure harsh working conditions in Qatar

World Cup slave labour: How migrant workers on $30 a day endure harsh working conditions in Qatar


Many of the £180 ($213)-a-night cabins being marketed to World Cup fans are still being thrown together, with migrant workers on 14-hour shifts to complete them, it can be revealed.

A third of the Free Zone complex was still under construction on Monday, with some cabins still unfurnished shells. Unplumbed toilets were stacked outside them as workers hammered and drilled together cheap flat-pack beds and wardrobes to furnish them.

Two Indian migrant workers, who are earning just £25 ($30) a day, said site bosses were offering further ad-hoc bonuses of £25 ($30) to encourage them to work faster to get the work finished.

Working in 30°C heat, one of them said, “They are telling us, “Hurry, hurry”. They will pay four workers the bonus to fit things – lay the carpets (between the huts), install the air conditioning or the lights.

“They say they want it finished in five days and no one is allowed to leave this work to go elsewhere.”

He also said he was working a 5am to 7pm shift with a one-hour break. The unfurnished shells – blocks M to P of the complex – were marked on the site map at the entrance to the vast complex and appear to be among the two-bed cabins being marketed for £172 ($204) a night.

Unpacked air-conditioning units, bed frames and wardrobes were piled outside these units, at the northern area of the vast complex near Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

It was a scene of frenetic work, with steamrollers compressing tar and stone on the desert sand and workers carrying pipes to plumb in to mobile air-conditioning units. The need for urgency was obvious. Workers have been toiling away in scorching heat to complete unfinished cabins as fans continue to arrive for the tournament

As the workers toiled, hundreds of supporters were rolling their suitcases up to the site and queuing 10-deep at the dozen or so check-in desks. These fans were directed to the cabins which had been furnished – but even in these areas, there was work still to complete on communal toilets, which were closed.

The furnished cabins are extremely basic for the cost. A pipe from mobile air-conditioning units is fed out through a hole in the wall and the same tap is used to work the water for both the toilet and the shower. Meanwhile, electric fans provide some additional ventilation.

The race to get these units furnished, with the tournament already under way, comes three months after we found the site totally deserted during a daytime visit.

It reflects the scene across Doha, where migrant workers are laying turf, scrubbing public seats, laying paving, and scores of other tasks in a last-minute drive to create a temporary impression of perfection. Three of the Free Zone cabin workers said the huts were only here for the duration of the World Cup. “They are being shipped to Africa after that,” he said.

At the Free Zone site on Monday, Wales supporter Dev Wilkins said of his cabin: “It’s just a little bit grotty. There was a layer of dust on the bedroom wall and a piece of tape sticking the toilet cistern on. A Dutch fan knocked on the door last night, asking how to work the water for the toilet. Using the shower tap for the toilet isn’t obvious. It just feels like it’s been thrown together. You’d usually expect far better quality for £180 but after all the horror stories, it’s probably not as bad as I thought.”

Some of the food units also remain unfurnished wooden shells, though a dozen of those are open and trading. The lack of shade from the sun is one of the most striking parts of the complex. For example, the cushions that were laid out in front of the big screen in the deserted central complex offered no shade.

Fans who had already arrived were at tables placed in the shade provided by cabins and food units.”

We asked the company operating the site, Qatari property developer Al Emadi, if the unfinished cabins had been sold and when they would be completed. They have not responded.

  • A Daily Mail report
About author

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *