Qatar 2022 World Cup chiefs vow to improve foreign labourers' conditions

Concerns have been raised over the treatment of construction workers in Qatar Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The fact the Qatari government allowed ITV News to join one of their health and safety inspectors as he went on a random check at a Doha building site amounts to progress in itself.

But then those who asked for the honour of staging the 2022 World Cup are finding that it brings with it the kind of global scrutiny they just aren’t used to. None of the Gulf states are.

In 2006, Qatar’s ministry of labour employed eight health and safety inspectors. Today there are 80 of them and there’s the promise of 300 by the end of the year.

They have the power to put contractors out of business. They have already jailed some of those who have violated labour laws here.

The problem is that too many contractors have been getting away with shortchanging and abusing the army of south Asian men who are building the dream.

There are 1.5 million guest workers in Qatar, most of them Indians and Nepalese. Figures released by their embassies in Doha suggest more than 1,000 labourers have died over the last two years.

Enforcement of existing labour laws is not stringent or widespread enough. But workers’ rights must also be improved and the Qataris have promised a new welfare charter in the summer.

The construction site we visited will be a five-star hotel and its safety record is good.

There are safety guidelines posted all over the place. Instructors speaking all the languages necessary hold tutorials to try to drum into workers the need for awareness and precautions.

World Cup organisers also took us to a new accommodation block. It’s clean and spacious and an example of how things should be.

The problem is that tens of thousands of workers live in squalid conditions elsewhere – in a sprawling network of one or two-storey dormitory buildings an hour from Doha. To most visitors to Qatar this community is way out of sight and mind.

Left to our own devices, we managed to get into a Nepalese camp where the men sleep 18 to a room lit by one bulb and with no air conditioning.

A wave of new construction is underway in Qatar ahead of the World Cup in 2022 Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The men complained that it was not at all what they had been told to expect by recruiters back home.

They said the food was rotten and made them sick. They all knew of colleagues who had died in accidents, through overwork or illness.

Guest workers make up almost 90% of the population of Qatar and there can be no World Cup without them.

The Qatari government and the World Cup organisers know they have an image problem.

They have promised changes and should be aware that without improvements in the welfare of guest workers their tournament may be doomed.

In a statement, Fifa has told ITV News: