Migrant workers constructing stadiums for the Qatar 2022 World Cup continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and exploitation, according to new research by Amnesty International.
Fifa is already under pressure from its own advisory board to act over the kafala system, used to monitor migrant labourers, which has been described as modern slavery. Now, a survey by Amnesty has found two-thirds of migrant workers have paid excessive or illegal recruitment fees.
The phone survey of 414 Nepali migrant workers found 88% paid fees to agents for their jobs overseas. The fees were claimed to be so high that the majority had to borrow more than half the sum from village moneylenders, placing them in debt.
More than half of the workers surveyed – 53% – said they received lower monthly salaries than was promised to them by recruitment agents.
James Lynch, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme, said: “Nepali migrant workers are being systematically and mercilessly set up. Forced to take out loans to pay the huge fees recruitment agencies charge them to work abroad, they are left so indebted they have no choice but to stay in jobs which often turn out to be low paid or dangerous.
“The Nepali government’s weak enforcement of the law is playing straight into the hands of extortionists and loan sharks,” he said. “Migrant workers all too often end up trapped in a soul-destroying situation of working abroad for years simply to pay off huge, often illegal fees they were charged to take the job. Tackling this exploitative industry is a matter of urgency.”