Exclusive: World Cup workers could be deported from Qatar

Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by

Hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar employed as security guards during the World Cup at Fifa’s main media center and other key sites face deportation after launching an unprecedented street protest in Doha on Sunday against mass dismissals that followed the tournament.

The protest was the culmination of a long-running labor dispute involving workers who were dismissed before the end of their six-month contracts to work at the World Cup. They were left without pay, bonuses and a place to live – forcing them to occupy their company accommodation.

Telegraph Sport has been told that approximately 400 workers previously employed by Doha-based Stark Security Services and Festival Global Management have hired buses to take them to protest at the latter’s offices in the West Bay area of the capital. The police were called and people were arrested. Eyewitnesses have reported that workers are being escorted to their accommodation to collect their belongings before the deportation process.


1,000 workers originally involved in protest over unpaid wages and bonuses 

1,000 workers originally involved in protest over unpaid wages and bonuses 

The dispute started during the tournament when workers were asked to sign new contracts. It then developed after the World Cup ended when many of them, employed by Stark Security through main contractor Festival Global, found that their original six-month contracts had been terminated. At its peak, the dispute saw 1,000 workers occupy their accommodation and refuse to leave unless they were given unpaid wages and bonuses.

The workers had even gone as far as hiring legal counsel in an attempt to have their case heard in the supreme court of the land but it seems that has failed. It is estimated that only 100 of the original 1,000 who were involved in the occupation, which began on December 20, are still camped out in Barwa Al Baraha. The site is just a 20-minute drive from the England team’s hotel in Qatar for the World Cup finals, in Al Wakrah on the coast south of Doha.

The men from south-east Asia, Africa and the Middle East were recruited to work for Stark Security, mainly guarding the Qatar National Convention Center which was home to Fifa’s media hub for the thousands of journalists from all over the world. the world reports on the tournament. The Telegraph has seen pictures from late last year of lists of names posted on the wall of Barwa Al Baraha with “demobilization” dates for hundreds of workers, either December 19, 20 or 22.

Security guards claim they are owed three months’ salary

Security guards claim they are owed three months' salary

Such was the desperation among guards, who claim they have three months’ worth of wages on contracts that ran until February, that many of them have pooled financial resources to fight the case. Trade unions are not allowed to operate in Qatar. The standard salary for a babysitter is around 2,700 Qatari Saudis per month – which equates to £615.

The dismissal process is being handled by Stark Security’s partner company, Festival Global, which also has offices in the United States, Tunisia and Kuwait. In what the two companies described as a “separation form”, migrant workers were asked to sign a statement that they were no longer owed wages in exchange for a small compensation fee.

Stark Security was contacted on more than one occasion for comment but did not respond. The Supreme Organizing Committee for the 2022 World Cup did not respond to requests for comment. A senior executive at Festival Global did not respond to messages.

A copy of the statement that workers were asked to sign has been seen by the Telegraph. He says: “I have paid all my debts and received what was owed to me by Festival Global Management and Stark Security Services and I will be moving myself and my belongings from the accommodation provided by these companies from today onwards. It has been a pleasure to be of service and to be part of this company throughout our time together.”

A minority of guards accepted £387 to vacate accommodation

A minority of guards accepted £387 to vacate accommodation

It is estimated by those on the spot that a minority of guards – in the hundreds – have agreed to sign the separation forms and receive a small compensation payment in exchange for leaving their accommodation immediately. They are understood to have been paid around 1,700 Qatari Riyals; around £387.

The dispute follows a request by Stark earlier in the tournament for guards to sign new contracts which would effectively keep them in Qatar for two years. That came towards the end of the first round in the World Cup. Around 125 guards refused to work at Fifa’s main media center on December 5 in protest at being encouraged to sign new contracts.

The Telegraph has seen one of those revised contract offers from Stark sent to workers in early December which pays a basic monthly salary of just 1,000 Qatari Riyals – £226 – for a female security guard. Under the terms of that proposal, workers are only entitled to 21 days of paid annual leave, and return economy plane tickets to their country of origin, after “two years of continuous service”.

Guards complained of late payment of wages

Guards complained of late payment of wages

Stark employed around 4,000 guards across a number of sites in Doha, and operated three shifts a day at the media centre, of 125 male and 63 female guards per shift, covering 24 hours. Guards complained about late payment of wages.

Guards say they worked in the media center during the World Cup without a day off. Stark’s move to switch to new contracts was in response to attempts by some of the guards to leave the company and look for new work.

All migrant workers in Qatar must have an employer sponsor to let them work in the country. That kafala system was central to many of the historical rights abuses for migrant workers in Qatar. The government of Qatar as well as Fifa, and the International Labor Organization have all been keen to say that great progress has been made in reforming the kafala system.

The new contracts available from Stark included a stipulation that employees “shall not join any competing company” when they resign. There is expected to be competition for contracts to provide bodyguards for the Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Cup – the Asian continent’s premier international competition – which will take place in Qatar in 2023.

A contract seen by Telegraph Sport and offered to a number of guards offers a monthly transport allowance of 500 Qatari Riyals (£113) which was used to pay for the 35-minute bus journey from the company’s employee accommodation to the centre. The contract had a monthly food allowance of 300 Riyals (£68) and an additional indefinite allowance of 1,400 Riyals (£316).