Qatar and FIFA want to make the tournament a success next year and expect to welcome 1.7 million football fans, sponsors and media to the small Gulf state. The number dwarfs the Qatari population of 300,000 but is still below the nearly 2 million migrant workers currently works in the country.

This legion of migrant workers will only grow in the next 11 months as Qatari companies look to South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Africa to recruit and expand their workforce. Local businesses will generate tremendous revenue from these visitors, with the hospitality industry – the glitzy luxury hotels that fans will stay in, as well as the upscale restaurants and venues – are particularly well-positioned to attract both World Cup fans and the low-migrant workers costs on which the Gulf state depends.

These workers are an integral part of the success of the World Cup, a spectacle that defines their ability to bring countries and communities together for a joyful festival of football. However, many workers will be Arriving in debt in Qatar due to extortion (and in some cases illegal) Agency fees and find jobs that don’t live up to the promises made by agencies in their home countries. The desperation for employment fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and poor job opportunities in the home means workers are ripe for exploitation. This toxic combination could endanger the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Qatar’s luxury hotel brands are currently looking for staff to fill the positions of cleaning, chef, security and housekeeping to provide fans, teams and sponsors with a memorable FIFA World Cup ™ experience.

But at what cost?

In July, the Business & Human Rights Resource Center published a report Surveyed 19 of the world’s largest multinational hotel brands on what they are doing to protect migrant workers in their Qatar hotels. It is anticipated that many of them will find lucrative agreements with FIFA to host football fans, media and sponsors. Disappointingly, only 11 brands responded and only a small minority realized the risks associated with the recruiting process or took proactive steps to mitigate that risk, even though workers had paid thousands of dollars to save jobs – a major cause of Employment abuse in the region. .

The report included interviews with workers currently or previously employed in Qatar’s hotels, the statements often being in stark contradiction to the information disclosed by the brands. Of the 18 workers surveyed, eight said they paid recruitment fees between $ 500 and $ 2,360. Several discussed the toll of taking out high-interest loans (a multiple of their monthly salary) to cover the cost of a job they or their families had taken on, with the burden of dealing with low-wage repayment plans.

Only two companies, Hilton Hotels and IHG Hotels & Resorts, announced that they had exposed their employees’ recruitment fee payments in 2019 and 2020, but only IHG disclosed that two employees at one hotel were paid fees and reimbursed – one welcome Step towards transparency. However, most brands have failed to outline satisfactorily solid steps to protect against charging, suggesting a terrifyingly casual approach to the issue and a definite lack of preparation.

Only three brands, Accor, Kempinski Hotels, and Hilton, described having routinely interviewed workers to see if fees were paid. Instead, several brands told us that they are relying on accredited agencies in the workers’ home countries; however, there are documented cases of accredited agencies that charge fees. This simply does not match the level of human rights due diligence in recruitment channels that is required to prevent abuse and exploitation.

Workers are seen on a construction site in Doha.
AFP via Getty Images

Many companies have told us that they are publicly available for Employer pays principle, the standard for fair recruitment, but only two, Kempinski and Radisson Hotels, have demonstrated policies that are fully in line with the principle. None of the workers who paid dues said their employer had paid back their hiring costs. Four other companies said they ban employee-paid fees but have not committed to pay the costs themselves; In contrast, Deutsche Hospitality has clearly outlined three cases in which it would not cover the administrative and medical costs of the employees. International labor organization (ILO) guidelines It is clear that these costs are an integral part of the recruitment process and should be borne by the employer.

Earlier this year, a Nepalese recruitment agency was searched and banned by the Nepalese raidi government for charging high fees. We identified the brands with the help of the agency and asked them to respond. While some brands responded positively by outlining the actions they were taking, it was worrying that the responses indicated that brands still lack a clear enough understanding of what is meant by “hiring costs” as used in the ILO guidelines. Marriott International millennium and Hiltons The replies indicated that they rely on a narrow definition of fees, which puts workers at risk of having to bear administrative costs such as visas or processing fees.

Another report claims that so-called project visas are being misused by World Cup contractors to recruit workers from Nepal on short notice. Short term contracts are not approved by the Nepalese government, nor are the customers, the workers about the Visa centers for Qatarwhich reportedly put them at risk of contract substitution and recruitment fees. Many of the recruitment agencies involved also provide hospitality and hotel workers.

Several months later, a guard investigation The situation of workers in FIFA-sponsored hotels in Doha was examined by workers with low wages who were unable to change jobs and who were still paying exorbitant agency fees.

As several cases come to light, it is clear that unless the luxury hotel brands take urgent action, debt and exploitation will be the legacy of the World Cup. Many migrant workers are likely to be recruited for a relatively short period of time and are redundant after the tournament – that is, if they pay a recruiting fee, they are unlikely to even stay long enough to pay it. Our research shows that hotels are far from directly addressing the issue of unfair recruitment, and only a minority have a real understanding of the serious risk of job abuse associated with recruitment fees. Even fewer are workers proactively protecting or willing to pay the dues in full once it is determined that workers have paid them.

As the eyes of the world turn to Doha, hotels in Qatar, FIFA and other employers look to Nepal, India, the Philippines, Kenya and other major sending countries for the workforce, fans and other visitors. You need to ensure that paper commitments are made to the principle the employer pays and to combat unfair recruitment supported by strict controls and solid due diligence so that those workers who are critical to the success of this event are not burdened with the financial and emotional toll they have to face in finding work.

Isobel Archer is a golf program manager at the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, an independent, nonprofit organization that tracks the human rights impacts of over 10,000 companies in over 180 countries.

The views expressed in this article are one’s own.