Qatar pays civil engineers well

Soccer World Cup 2022Who is building in Qatar for the World Cup

"Welcome to Qatar" reads large signs in Doha International Airport. But the huge building was not designed and built by citizens of the emirate on the Persian Gulf, but by migrant workers. Most of them come from poor regions of India and Nepal. They work for ridiculous salaries, completely dependent on the employer. The General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, speaks of "modern slavery" in one of the richest countries in the world.

The policeman at passport control is the last Qatari citizen I meet for a long time. They are a minority in their own country, 75 percent of the population are migrant workers. A migrant worker also drives the taxi into town. Dambar Bahadur Rai from Nepal. In terms of population, no other state sends as many workers to Qatar as the small country in the Himalayas. The traffic on the four-lane road to the center flows in an orderly manner, speeds are precisely regulated. Nevertheless, an off-road vehicle slams past far too quickly on the left. "Katari," Dambar Rai mumbles and smiles.

"We have to bring in at least 265 rials in sales per day, that's 66 euros. If it doesn't come together one day, we have to make up for it the next day. At the end of the month, the company adds up the earnings."

Doha: from fishing village to metropolis

Dambar Rai is 35 and has been driving taxis in Qatar for three years. Before that, he worked for years in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

"When I finished 10th grade, my father died. So I couldn't finish college. I had to support my mother and finance my siblings' studies. So I decided to go abroad to earn money "Many Nepalese went out to help their families. I joined them."

Dambar Rai is one of around 1.7 million migrant workers in Qatar. The desert state has been booming since oil and gas were discovered in the 1960s. Qatar's capital Doha has transformed from a fishing village into a metropolis in just a few decades. Between the Arabian desert and the shores of the Persian Gulf stands a wall of glittering high-rise buildings - these, too, were designed, planned and built by migrant workers.

Dambar Rai, the taxi driver, is on shift until four in the morning. He works eleven hours straight, with an hour break. Then he drives to the company's own quarters, eats, sleeps and goes to the next shift. Six days a week. He sends 450 of his 500 euros wages to Nepal - to his mother, siblings, his wife and a daughter he has not seen for years. He misses everyone, he says - especially his daughter, she is so small and sweet.

Shortly after my arrival at the hotel, another taxi stops in front of the foyer: Mustafa Qadri gets out. He works for Amnesty International in London. The human rights organization has been criticizing working conditions in Qatar for years. Secretly photographs overcrowded accommodations, dirty kitchens, broken showers. The International Trade Union Confederation has also repeatedly criticized Qatar, and journalists have even been arrested for secretly filming in workers' quarters.

$ 120 a month - workers are still being exploited

The construction site of the "Khalifa International Stadium" in Doha, Qatar. (picture alliance / dpa - Andreas Gebert)

Qatar's government and the committee responsible for the 2022 World Cup have promised to improve. In March 2016, Amnesty International published a new report that caused quite a stir. The editor, Mustafa Qadri, was able to prove that workers are still being exploited on a World Cup construction site, working unpaid overtime and living in small, dirty neighborhoods. "The ugly side of the beautiful game" is what Qadri called the report, for which he interviewed 244 construction workers on the construction site of the Khalifa Stadium and in the adjacent park. Mustafa Qadri:

"The workers I talked to sowed the lawn on which the famous Bayern Munich soccer club played. There were twelve or fourteen workers in one room, their passports were taken from them. Each of them has $ 4,500 paid to get a job that makes them $ 120 a month. "

It's not an officially requested interview - we meet apparently casually at the hotel, the evening before Qadri's flight back to London. He was invited to a UN conference on business and human rights in Qatar. There is also something like that in this dazzling emirate. The government wants to make it clear that it cares. It reformed the labor law and introduced better social standards. Something is happening slowly, says Qadri. But the basic problems of the two-class society are far from being solved. Mustafa Qadri:

"If you talk to a taxi driver, to any migrant worker here, ask him: How much of your wages are you sending home? I'm sure he will answer: everything. It's not just about whether they have filthy kitchens here or theirs Not getting a wage, it's about the human level. We're talking about the lives of millions of people! It's just not fair. "

The renovation of the Khalifa Stadium should be finished by 2022. One of twelve state-of-the-art sports arenas that are being converted or rebuilt for the soccer World Cup. There are cranes everywhere in Doha, excavation pits are opening up. In between, workers in helmets and luminous vests swarm. Reports of accidents and deaths of foreign workers in Qatar have increased in recent years from human rights activists, trade unionists and journalists.

12 hours of work per day at up to 50 degrees in the shade

Suddenly the whole world became interested in the conditions of migrant workers. Employers are now also paying attention to safety. Working hours of up to 12 hours and up to 50 degrees in the shade, on the other hand, are still not uncommon. There are hardly any complaints. The workers have already signed the exploitative contracts in their home countries, their financial hardship leaves them no choice. Through the mediation of the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC in Brussels, I meet a Nepalese in Doha who is secretly campaigning for workers' rights. He is small, energetic, with quite a stutter, but very precise statements.

"In Nepal, people start dreaming - they think they are coming to a good company that will find proper accommodation for them. The workers think: I make a lot there, I can save something every month and then I will become a rich man at home . But when the people arrive here in Qatar, none of it is right. The wages are low. Everything is different. "

I call him Arjun, his real name should be kept a secret. As does the organization that finances it. Officially he is here with a visitor's visa, the Nepalese embassy in Doha is cooperating, but he doesn't know everything. I'll interview him at the hotel. Through the window we look at the construction site of a subway station. A drilling machine from the Herrenknecht company from Baden is digging the tunnels. They work day and night. In the early morning and now, in the afternoon, there is a shift change. We see buses rolling onto the clay court next to the construction site. Arjun:

"Most workers work two to three hours overtime a day, often unpaid. And many are housed a long way away from the construction site. After eleven hours of work, they still have to wait for the bus that takes them to their quarters. It only comes when the new one Shift is approaching. And waiting time is not paid for. "

Migrant workers in Qatar: They come mainly from Nepal and India. ( Mustroph)

Some workers don't get paid for months - some companies don't care. The workers could claim their wages. But how do you do that in a country whose language you can't read or speak? This is where Arjun's organization helps.

"We are looking for workers here among the Nepalese who have difficulties who have become victims. We take them to the Nepalese embassy or to the labor court. We explain to them which legal action they can take, which laws apply in Qatar, which rights they have have and what is forbidden. "

Esther Saoub: "And what do the Qatari authorities say about that?"

Arjun: "We're illegal for Qatar!"

Foreign visitors are not welcome in the accommodations

The next day I drive into the desert in front of the city. No more glittering office towers, irrigated green strips or palm tree alleys. The streets are bumpy out here - sand and stones as far as the eye can see. But not desert dunes formed by the wind, but plains furrowed by vehicles, over which only dumped piles of gravel and old construction equipment rise.

Dambar Rai, the Nepalese taxi driver, drives me. We pass his accommodation, a collection of huge concrete buildings painted in the colors of the taxi company. Like an oversized student residence, only for men.

"Our accommodation is okay. Nice security guards, water, electricity, air conditioning. I have nothing to complain about. All drivers are satisfied. There is newer accommodation, with four people per room, but there are six of us here. When we eat want, there are three canteens. "

However, Rai is not allowed to receive foreign visitors like me in his dormitory. The nice security guards prevent that. Eating, sleeping and free time - everything is externally determined in the life of migrant workers. The company decides where they live. That sounds nice in the contract: Accommodation included. However, the migrants will only find out what it looks like when they arrive in Qatar. Many construction workers are less fortunate than the taxi drivers. They live in barracks, two-story, densely packed and dirty. Laundry hangs on every railing, the rooms are tiny. The air shimmers with heat - it smells of garbage and exhaust fumes from the nearby motorway. The private employment agencies in Nepal promise workers high wages and good accommodation - conditions that they later fail to meet. And: they take money for their services. Completely excessive agency fees. Dambar Rai:

"For my first stay abroad I paid 85,000 rupees, a good 700 euros. I borrowed it from a neighbor. At 24 percent interest! Unfortunately we have a problem in our country. The agency is not allowed to charge that much money. You writes a receipt for a lesser amount, but is actually asking for more. The government is trying to prevent this, but to no avail. "

The government of Nepal has been deeper in the crisis than before since the earthquake in spring 2015. The Nepalese state watches helplessly as its citizens migrate abroad and are exploited.

Arjun, the illegal trade unionist in Qatar, knows many stories like this. The workers are poorly informed, he says. They believe the private brokers when they bill them for fees that shouldn't actually be incurred. Arjun:

"The employers in Qatar send visas and plane tickets to Nepal free of charge. But the recruitment agencies charge the workers for it. Some take 700 euros and then issue a receipt for 90 euros. According to the law, workers do not have to pay anything for their ticket and visa "The governments of Nepal and Qatar have agreed on this. But only five percent of the agencies respect that, 95 percent are dubious, very dubious."

Employer has responsibility for the well-being of employees

Without rights: the guarantee system gives employers full powers over their employees. (dpa / picture-alliance / Arno Burgi)

Flags with German names are also flying on the construction sites in Qatar's capital - Z├╝blin, Siemens and one of the world's largest construction companies: Hochtief from Essen. Hochtief built a gigantic commercial area here in 2009 and is now drilling the tunnels for the new sewage system in Doha.

After a long hesitation, the company's regional head, Helmut Landahl, is ready for an interview. A press spokesman travels from Germany, the questions are discussed in detail beforehand. Helmut Landahl:

"Just recently, two of our employees were on the road in India, in Nepal and in Thailand, they visited recruitment companies there and committed them to complying with our standards. In this context, this means in particular that the companies undertake to use the to accept no money for workers to be hired. Because we have made it clear that all recruitment fees are paid by us. "

Hochtief tries to transfer its own ethical standards as far as possible to Qatar. The company pays wages on time and places the workers in a model city. At the same time, Helmut Landahl is careful not to criticize Qatar's laws. At the center of these laws is a system that only exists in the Persian Gulf: Kafala, in English: Guarantee. Every foreigner in Qatar needs a local as guarantor, even the German regional head of Hochtief or the Australian university professor. Kafala places tasks that are regulated by the state in the hands of the employers. And with it the responsibility for the well-being of the employees. Mustafa Qadri from Amnesty International criticizes that even a new, reformed labor law does not shake these conditions:

"Every foreigner who lives in this country needs a guarantor, and if he wants to change jobs or leave the country, he needs the guarantor's permission. This is what the law says, even after the reform. This regulation violates human rights It also creates an incredible imbalance of power between workers and employers. Therefore, employers can abuse their employees with impunity, for example in the cases I have documented. If a worker complains about his situation, he is threatened with the To end his residence permit. That means that the police will deport him. This law has to be changed and then put into practice. "

Criticism can be expressed. Implementation is rather questionable

The renowned Georgetown University in Washington D.C. has a branch on the outskirts of Doha. Elite universities are lined up on a huge campus - British, French and US American, in ultra-modern buildings. At the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University, scientists conduct research on labor migration - even cautiously criticize their generous host country. Another ambivalence in the desert state of Qatar: Critical things can be expressed. Whether someone takes the criticism seriously is another question. The deputy director of the institute is the political scientist Zahra Babar.

"I did research in Pakistan on social injustice and rural poverty. In many cases, households there were run by women, old people and children. Because the able-bodied men worked elsewhere. People who emigrate do so for a variety of reasons . But those who are particularly vulnerable, whom we see here in the Gulf, need our attention and special protection, because they are also one of the weakest social groups at home. Even the success stories mean 30 years of being away from the family. You have achieved a lot, have Financed a degree for your children, your daughter is a doctor, your son is an engineer, that's fantastic, you would never have managed it otherwise. But they grew up without you, you have become estranged from them. On a human level, I find that sad. "

I would have liked to ask someone in charge of the government whether he sees things the same way - or maybe completely different? Unfortunately, I am always put off my inquiries. Zahra Babar:

"The World Cup comes and goes, and with it the interests of the world. Qatar's government should focus its interest on future immigration flows. It is not just about keeping the international community happy."