World Cup security guards still jailed in Qatar after dispute over unpaid wages | Workers’ rights

Three World Cup safety guards who had been detained whereas attempting to resolve a dispute over unpaid wages are nonetheless being held in Qatar 4 months after their arrest.

Shakir Ullah and Zafar Iqbal from Pakistan, and an Indian nationwide, have allegedly been sentenced to 6 months in jail and fined 10,000 riyals (£2,220) every.

The findings, first established by the human rights group Equidem and verified by the Guardian, are a surprising postscript to the World Cup, which Fifa promised would depart an enduring legacy of higher employees’ rights within the Gulf state. Qatar has not commented on the case.

The three males had been amongst a whole bunch of safety guards, employed by Stark Safety Providers, an area non-public safety firm, who had been deployed at key websites all through the World Cup however had been laid off within the days after the ultimate, with months nonetheless left on their contracts.

Ullah, who was affectionately often known as chacha (uncle in Urdu) by his colleagues, was described by one as a “calm, quiet particular person, however with regards to his rights, he won’t will let you cheat him”.

Calling for the speedy launch of the three males, Equidem’s director, Mustafa Qadri, mentioned the boys had been punished for merely demanding what they and a whole bunch of their colleagues had been owed after their contracts had been terminated early.

“That is the true value of Fifa’s reckless disregard for the rights of people that assist them generate big earnings,” Qadri mentioned.

A whole bunch of different former Stark Safety employees are additionally coming to phrases with their very own traumatic ordeal after disputing the early termination of their contracts.

Whereas Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy in Qatar after what Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, known as the “greatest ever” World Cup, Jacob* and Patrick*, from Kenya, had been informed they had been being fired.

They’d spent a lot of the event working as safety guards at Stadium 974, which hosted matches involving Argentina, Brazil, France and Portugal and stars resembling Messi, Mbappé and Ronaldo.

They are saying the message got here as a shock, as a result of their contracts nonetheless had three months left to run. They had been then instructed to gather their closing wage for the times they’d labored in December and go away their lodging.

Simply days after the ultimate they all of a sudden discovered themselves jobless and homeless. “After they wanted you, they handled you properly, however now they’re carried out with you, you’re nothing to them,” mentioned Jacob.

A man poses in front of a sign saying World Cup Qatar 2022 has his picture taken
Employees interviewed by the Guardian believed they’d been employed for six months however allege that their jobs had been terminated early. {Photograph}: Pete Pattisson

Worse was to return: after trying to dispute the early termination of their contracts, the 2 males had been allegedly detained and deported together with a whole bunch of others.

“They are saying it was probably the most lovely World Cup, however on the finish of the day we simply misplaced every part,” mentioned Patrick.

Within the months main as much as the World Cup, Stark Safety took on a whole bunch of safety guards to be deployed at key event websites. “As a result of it was Fifa, all of us mentioned ‘let’s be part of’,” mentioned one other employee from Ghana.

The Guardian interviewed 9 safety guards who labored for the corporate, together with Jacob and Patrick, all of whom had their employment terminated early. 4 had been allegedly later deported and 5 others had been fired on the identical time or shortly afterwards however weren’t deported.

The employees’ contracts, seen by the Guardian, promised a month-to-month wage of two,700 riyals (£600) for working seven days every week, in addition to offering them with meals and lodging.

The 9 employees interviewed by the Guardian all believed they’d been employed for six months. Their contracts acknowledged: “Discover interval: six months put up date of becoming a member of.” Beneath reforms made to Qatar’s labour legal guidelines in 2020, employers and employees can finish contracts early, however they need to give one month’s discover.

“We went to Qatar to earn cash and make a greater life for our household, however the firm and authorities cheated us,” mentioned one other fired safety guard from Pakistan. “We felt so helpless.”

With nowhere else to remain, no option to repay the large money owed they’d taken on to get to Qatar and few different jobs accessible as soon as the World Cup had completed, Jacob, Patrick and a whole bunch of different safety guards tried to barter with Stark Safety and filed a criticism with the Qatari authorities.

“We informed them: we’re nonetheless keen to work,” mentioned Jacob. “We’ve not failed you in any manner, we’ve got not dedicated any crime; in case you want to cease [employing] us, it’s a must to compensate us for these three remaining months.”

However Stark Safety informed them that there was no extra work because the event was over, and, based on the employees, ordered the labour camp to cease serving meals to them. “They saved coming to the lodging and threatening us, banging on our door so we would depart,” mentioned Jacob.

On 23 January, about 200 of the guards employed buses to take them to the headquarters of an organization related to Stark Safety to barter for his or her unpaid wages. Workers allegedly known as the police and claimed the employees had been blocking the highway. The guards mentioned, aside from their leaders, they didn’t even get off the buses.

The employees had been allegedly taken to a detention centre by the police, with greater than 200 later deported, together with the 4 males interviewed by the Guardian, who had been on the buses.

Finally, with no different choices, the boys interviewed by the Guardian accepted their wages for the times they’d labored in December. Any hope they may be paid for the remaining months of their contract was misplaced. They mentioned that they, together with all the opposite males detained with them, had been deported inside every week. Solely Shakir Ullah and his two colleagues remained.

Equidem mentioned it had interviewed 43 males who had labored for Stark Safety and allegedly had their contracts terminated early and been deported.

For individuals who say they had been compelled to return house, the sense of concern and shock continues to be uncooked. Some blame the Qatari regime. “Nothing occurs with out its data. We should always have gotten our rights if the Qatar authorities had cared,” mentioned Jacob.

However that anger can be directed at Fifa, which made $7.5bn (£6bn) over the 4 years main as much as the Qatar World Cup. “Fifa made huge cash from the World Cup and we deserve our share,” mentioned a guard from Ghana.

A spokesperson for Qatar authorities’s worldwide media workplace mentioned an investigation discovered that Stark Safety had did not adjust to all of Qatar’s labour legal guidelines and can be penalised.

It confirmed the employees had been employed on momentary six-month contracts, however “a decision was swiftly reached between the corporate and its workers, whereby the employees had been remunerated in full for his or her providers and their contracts had been concluded in accordance with their specified phrases”.

It didn’t verify if any of the employees had been deported, however mentioned: “Qatar doesn’t arrest or deport employees for in search of to resolve their employment disputes. The rights of all people working in Qatar are upheld and guarded by the truthful and simply software of authorized due course of.”

Fifa directed the Guardian to an earlier assertion it made on the case, during which it mentioned it “seeks to facilitate discussions at host nation stage, to discover accessible choices for treatment”.

Stark Safety Providers didn’t reply to requests for remark. Qatar’s native World Cup organising committee declined to remark.

Extra reporting by Praveen Yadav.

* Names have been modified to guard people’ identities.