In Qatar, which is due to host the 2022 World Cup, domestic workers suffer physical and sexual abuse and exploitation, Amnesty International said in a new report Wednesday.
The rights group – in a report entitled My Sleep is my Break – says foreign workers are often lured to the country through false promises about salaries and working conditions.
Many end up working seven days a week and have no real way to complain about their conditions to the authorities.
“At the more shocking end of our findings, we see people who have been through horrendous cases, and they get no justice,” says James Lynch, a researcher with Amnesty.
One woman showed Amnesty researchers a scar on her chest, the result of her employer branding her with a hot iron. When the woman tried to run away from the house, she was detained by police and sent to a deportation centre.
“It was as if she had committed an offence, rather than her being seen as a victim,” says Lynch.
In many ways, this is the norm, according to the report. If the domestic workers, often women, try to run away from abusive employers they often end up deported from the natural-resource rich Gulf country.
Hundreds of Filipino maids fled to their embassy since last year, citing abusive conditions, according to reports and the government in Manila.
Amnesty said there were no signs Qataris are being held to account for abusing their staff, even in cases of rape.
Incidents of sexual abuse reported to the police are often closed due to a “lack of evidence”.
Women who try to report rape can even end up charged themselves with morality violations in the conservative monarchy.
There are at least 84,000 women migrant domestic workers in the Gulf state, mainly from South and South East Asia, according to Amnesty.
All are tied, under a sponsorship programme, to their specific employer, and cannot easily change jobs. Also, there is no legislation offering the workers protection.
“The government says it is working on a domestic worker law. But they have been saying this for several years and it is time for action,” says Lynch.
Amnesty has previously highlighted the cases of migrant construction workers in Qatar.
Hundreds of construction workers are said to have died in Qatar in the past two years, drawing international criticism.