“They call it a shelter, but we are staying in a prison”

The two teenagers worked as security guards during the World Cup, didn’t get paid by their employer and have been stuck in Qatar for a year. Now they are being punished for a meeting with Norwegian FA president Lise Klaveness in Doha.

By Sam Kunti
Photo: Christian Belgaux

Saikou, a 17-year-old migrant worker from The Gambia and a security guard during the 2022 World Cup, is adamant, the so-called humanitarian shelter where he and his friend Jatta are staying at in Abu Hamour, Doha, is simply a glorified detention center. There are bars in front of the windows and CCTV cameras everywhere. Above all, freedom of movement is heavily restricted. The two teenagers are no longer allowed outside. They can only leave the shelter to attend court hearings in their labour law dispute with their sponsors. The shelter’s supervisors, members of the Ministry of Labour (MOL) applied a harsher regime to the pair after a November meeting with Lise Klaveness in Doha. 

Klaveness, the president of the Norwegian FA, met the boys on The Corniche and promised to help them with the Norwegian trade union LO, attempting to localise their case and analyse the options. The LO has liaised with the International Labor Organization (ILO). “It is incredible that they have not only returned home, but dared to challenge the system,” says Steinar Krogstad of the LO. “The situation of the two boys shows us that the rules that have been introduced are not being followed. Enforcement is lacking.”

Outside the official circuit that includes the ILO, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) and FIFA, Klaveness has been the lone football official to genuinely express interest in the plight of workers. Much of football has forgotten...

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