World Cup security guards from Pak, India languish in Qatar jail following dispute over unpaid wages

Pete Pattisson / The Guardian

Sapan News Four months after their arrest and five months after the FIFA World Cup final, two security guards from Pakistan and one from India remain detained in Qatar over a dispute involving unpaid wages. According to a report in The Guardian, the three guards have been sentenced to six months in prison and fined 10,000 riyals each.

The findings, first highlighted by the human rights group Equidem, come as a shock as FIFA had campaigned for better workers’ rights in the Gulf state and promised to respect their dignity. Qatar is yet to comment on the matter.

The three men were among hundreds of security guards employed by Stark Security Services, a local private security company. They had been deployed at key sites throughout the World Cup but were laid off in the days after the final, with months still left on their contracts. According to their contracts, the guards were to receive a monthly salary of 2,700 riyals for working seven days a week, besides food and accommodation. The contract read: “Notice period: six months post date of joining.” Under Qatar’s labour laws in 2020, employers and workers can end contracts early, but they must give one month’s notice.

The guards, who come from different parts of the world besides Southasia, including Ghana and Kenya, allege that they were let go before their contracts ended without any compensation or notice leaving them homeless. They also allege that the security company ordered the labour camp to stop serving them food. When they tried to register their protests outside Stark Security’s offices on January 23, they were taken to a detention centre by the police and later deported. Only the three detained men continue to remain in Qatar, while the rest have been forced back to their home countries. The situation is more distressing for the workers because many of them took heavy loans to reach Qatar for the FIFA World Cup.

“We went to Qatar to earn money and make a better life for our family, but the company and authorities cheated us. We felt so helpless,” said a fired security guard from Pakistan.

Qatar employed tens of thousands of workers to prepare and execute the most prestigious event in the football world. However, there have been multiple reports of labour rights violations and ill-treatment of workers employed for the occasion.

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