Abuse in the shadow of luxury

State-owned Qatar Airways is a FIFA partner and sponsor of the World Cup in Russia and Bayern Munich. Migrant workers at Hamad International Airport, which is owned by the airline, are being subject to major human rights abuse.

By Håvard Melnæs

Photo Faiz Abu Rmeleh

First published  on 9 april 2018.

On July 5th, 2017, a little more than three years after its completion, Hamad International Airport received the message they had been striving towards: The airport became only the sixth in the world to receive five stars from the consultancy firm Skytrax. His Excellency Akbar al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways Group, was, well, flying high: «Hamad International Airport more than exceeds passenger expectations by providing what passengers want in an environment that is beautiful, thoughtful and welcoming», he said, adding that travellers may shop in world class tax-free stores, relax in one of the airport’s twelve lounges or use some of the many facilities in the spa department, which include several squash courts and a swimming pool.

Whether employed by Qatar Airways itself or one of its many subcontractors, several thousand people work at Hamad International Airport; nearly all are migrant workers. In recent years, mainly due to the fact that the tiny gulf state is scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s treatment of its foreign labour force has been subject to major international scrutiny. When the World Cup kicks off, the airport will be the main gateway to Qatar: The competing squads, the world’s media and thousands of travelling supporters will form their first impressions of the country here.

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