Qatar 2022: Construction firms accused amid building boom.
Claims that millions of dollars were paid in bribes to secure the world’s biggest football tournament for Qatar refuse to go away. Qatar is frantically spending more than £200bn ($312bn) on a building bonanza ahead of the tournament. Everyone seems to be getting rich, except those at the bottom of the human supply chain, the migrant worker.
At least eight stadiums are to be built and others will be refurbished for the World Cup.
So what is the responsibility of the international companies awarded massive contracts in Qatar? We have uncovered worrying testimony about pay, housing conditions and safety standards from foreign workers.
They include some employed by subcontractors working for one of Britain’s biggest construction firms, Carillion, based in Wolverhampton is a PLC and a British multinational facilities management and construction services company. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
We were refused permission to film on-going construction in a stadium, so I booked a hotel room to get a look at what is said to be the largest construction site in the world the district of Msheireb in the centre of Doha. There will be shopping malls, apartment blocks and rail links to the stadiums.
At 5am, horns blare and brakes screech as the buses with the day shift workers arrive. The shift change is organised with military precision as one gang put aside their tools and climb down the ladders. Those on the day shift leave the buses in orderly lines, climb up to the recently abandoned positions and start work.
It looks impressive but when I get to talk to the workers, a different picture emerges. Imran, a 32-year-old from Bangladesh, says he deeply regrets coming to Qatar. A recruitment agent promised him 1,500 Qatari Riyal (£263) a month. After he has paid for his food, phone and medical treatment for the asthma he says he has contracted since starting work on the dusty site, he has not got much left with the 650 QR a month he gets. On top of supporting his family, he has to give half of that to the recruitment agency in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
”I am supporting elderly parents, my wife and a child,” he says. ”I can’t send them the money they need and I don’t want to stay here but I can’t leave also. The company have my passport,” he adds: “We wake at 4 in the morning, get to work at about 6’am’ and work until 5 in the evening.” It takes an hour to get back to the camp. My room there isn’t fit for humans – six of us share it and there’s no place even to sit and eat.”
On his safety helmet and safety pass, there is the name of Carillion. Carillion managers however say it uses 50 subcontractors mainly locals and that the company employing Imran provides labour to one of its subcontractors.
Carillion says it is “deeply concerned and surprised” by these findings and will be “conducting an immediate review of these claims to establish the position and take appropriate action”. The workers’ camps lie between 10 and 20 miles from Doha centre. We follow a bus that leads us to a camp used by another subcontractor company working for Carillion. We managed to enter and in a typical open space court between portcabins were two Nepalese, two Indians and two Bangladeshis workers sitting on the floor eating.