• Press Release

World Athletics Championships in Qatar Played Out in Shadow of Migrant Worker Abuses

September 25, 2019

DOHA, QATAR - SEPTEMBER 25: General view of the Stadium prior to the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on September 25, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
The plight of migrant workers who continue to be abused and exploited while working in Qatar will cast a shadow over the World Athletics Championships, Amnesty International said ahead of the showpiece sporting event which starts this week.

The Doha 2019 competition, which runs from Friday, September 27 to Sunday, October 6, follows a report published by Amnesty last week which revealed that hundreds of migrant workers are still waiting in vain for unpaid wages and compensation.

Many of the events at Doha will be held in the Khalifa Stadium. Previous Amnesty research highlighted the systematic exploitation of migrant workers during its construction, facilitated by Qatar’s ‘kafala’ sponsorship system.

“Despite Qatar’s promises to improve workers’ rights, our research shows that far too many migrant workers in Qatar are still at the mercy of unscrupulous employers,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Global Issues.

“With the clock ticking and too little progress made, we fear that migrant workers will continue to face abuse and exploitation unless Qatar rapidly picks up the pace of reform.

“Amnesty is not against Qatar hosting events such as the World Athletics Championships, but the plight of migrant workers who make it possible for Qatar to develop its infrastructure and host major tournaments should not be overlooked.

“Without major changes, the shadow of human rights abuses will continue to be cast over global sporting events in Qatar.”


Qatar hosts about two million migrant workers, but does not meet international labor standards. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for Qatar to abolish the abusive kafala system, which ties workers to their employers for up to five years and prevents some groups, such as domestic workers, from leaving the country without their employers’ permission.

Last week’s report All work, no pay: The struggle of Qatar’s migrant workers for justice highlighted how hundreds of migrant workers employed by three construction and cleaning companies have given up on justice and returned home penniless since March 2018. This is despite the Qatari authorities having established new committees intended to rapidly resolve labour disputes, as part of a series of labor reforms agreed ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Last year the committees received more than 6,000 complaints, most of which had not been resolved at the end of the year.