Dozens of exploited migrant workers who were trapped in Qatar without passports, pay or even food have still not seen a penny of back pay more than four years after completing their construction project.
Amnesty International researchers say the migrant construction workers brought to Qatar by Krantz Engineering Company to build the Ras Laffan Emergency and Safety College have still not received payment for their work.
“It has been horrible; I don’t know why I came here,” a 31-year-old Indian contractor is quoted as saying in the Amnesty International report, which comes as part of a look at the state of Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “I consider this to be the worst phase of my life. My father passed away while I was struggling here; I couldn’t leave to see him for the last time even after begging CID, crying and falling at their feet.”
Krantz Engineering brought approximately 250 workers to Qatar to work on the campus construction project. According to Amnesty International, the contract was supposed to be completed by 2011 but was delayed until 2012.
Sixty-four workers have still not been paid, according to Amnesty International. Many workers were not able to return home until 2013.
Migrant workers in Qatar must have sponsors, according to government regulations. Workers surrender their passports to their sponsor – in this case, the company they are working for – until residence procedures are completed. According to Amnesty International, passports were not returned for more than a year after the end of the contractual agreement between the workers and Krantz Engineering.
In July 2012, Amnesty International says, the company had stopped paying workers. By November 2012, work had stopped – and still, workers had not been paid.
From November 2012 to February 2013, workers found themselves trapped in Qatar, unable to get home because the company refused to release their passports.
Amnesty International was alerted to this issue around February 2013, when one of the workers submitted a complaint to the Labor Relations Department of the Ministry of Labor.
In March 2013, the workers reached a crisis point. Workers were living at a compound provided by Krantz Engineering. Amnesty International says at this time, the company stopped providing food and cut off electricity to the compound. Workers, who had not been paid for months, were unable to eat for days at a time.
When Amnesty International researchers arrived March 13, 2013, the workers were without air conditioning and were using candles for light.
One worker sent emails to Amnesty International outlining his plight. On April 23, 2013, the worker said he had not eaten for five days.
“I am writing this email after lots of pain and struggle. ... I have complained in several places like Labor court, Indian Embassy, High court, CID and National Human Rights Council Qatar but not any positive response from anyone of them.... I don't have money to eat food from last five days as I didn't get salary from last nine months.”
James Lynch, a researcher with Amnesty International, spoke to Gulf News Journal about the exploitation of these workers.
“Amnesty was able to provide some basic assistance to the workers to help them exit the country, but the government of Qatar has the obligation to hold accountable those responsible for such abuses and to provide the ability for workers to get justice for what happened to them,” Lynch told the Gulf News Journal.
On July 23, 2013, the last three workers were finally able to return to their home countries, though Amnesty International reports Krantz Engineering pressured workers to first sign documents falsely stating that they had been paid.
Krantz Engineering was never held responsible for their actions, and workers have still not been paid, Lynch told the Gulf News Journal. The Qatari government has not been held responsible for it's lack of action either.
“The authorities clearly failed in their obligation to the workers in this case,” Lynch said.
Gulf News Journal reached out to officials at the Ras Laffan Emergency and Safety College for this story, but the school has not yet responded.