Qatar says Amnesty labour abuse claims 'simply untrue'

DOHA - Qatar on Wednesday dismissed claims it has done almost nothing to tackle migrant labour abuse since being awarded the 2022 World Cup exactly five years ago as "simply untrue".

In a vigorous defence of its treatment of foreign labourers, Doha said an Amnesty International report arguing Qatar should be "shamed" by its lack of reform was inaccurate, lacking context, and wrong.

"We feel that the accusation that Qatar has failed to improve the human rights of its guest workers is simply untrue," said a Qatari government statement.

"Significant reforms have been made and more are in the pipeline." Qatar, it added, was "committed to protecting the workers who are helping us build our nation".

The Amnesty report was published on Tuesday on the eve of the fifth anniversary of Qatar's surprise selection to host football's 2022 World Cup finals.

The human rights group said Doha had done "almost nothing" in that time to improve the treatment of the country's almost two million foreign workers, many working on tournament projects.

It said that labour abuse was still rife and the limited reforms taken "shamed" the gas-rich Gulf state.

In response, Qatar said it had introduced steps to ensure workers get paid on time, made it illegal for companies to hold workers' passports, upgraded accommodation and safety standards, and improved "access to justice" for those suffering mistreatment.

The statement added that Qatar had also put into place proposals which would lead to the end of its controversial "kafala" system, which limits the rights of movement for workers and has been likened by critics to modern-day slavery.

"The Government recently signed into law reform of the nation's contract-based employment system, including provisions regulating the entry, exit and residency requirements for the nation's two million-plus expatriate labour force," read the statement.

"Labour reform is still a work in progress, but these new regulations mark the beginning of the end of the so-called 'kafala' laws in Qatar."

It also criticised the human rights group for not comparing labour conditions in Qatar to "other countries facing similar challenges".

"Far from 'tinkering on the edges' of reform, Qatar has made, and will continue to make changes in our laws that will help ensure that the rights of both workers and their employers are respected," the statement concluded.

Amnesty also criticised FIFA for not doing enough to enforce change.

In response, football's governing body said the World Cup was a "strong catalyst" for reform.