Cambodia has welcomed a proposal from Qatar to provide it 33,000 migrant workers in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup despite reports of appalling labor abuses and thousands of foreign deaths on building sites in the oil-rich nation.
Boasting the highest per-capita income in the world, Qatar has come under sustained fire from rights groups and labor unions for using a form of modern-day slavery called the Kafala system. However, it has continued to draw hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from developing countries.
“I came here, and I want to inform your excellency that Qatar’s Ministry of Labor has agreed to have 33,000 workers from Cambodia,” Saleh Saeed Al-Shawi, head of the labor relations department in Qatar’s Labor Ministry, told Cambodian Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng.
Mr. Al-Shawi said Qatari employers would pay for travel and ensure that workers had bank accounts, allowing them to quickly transfer money back home.
“I think that it is a good start, and we need to start from 33,000 and hope there could be more in the future if we do the work well,” Mr. Sam Heng said.
Othsman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, said Cambodians would be mainly employed to work on construction projects, but also in jobs ranging from domestic work to the tourism sector.
“Qatar has more development, and they especially need more [workers] for the construction sector,” he said, adding that he did not know when Cambodia would start sending workers to Qatar.
“This is the opening of a new road for Cambodian workers to make their own choice,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor rights group Central, said he did not believe the new road would be a safe one for Cambodians.
“What the Cambodian government should think is there are a lot of reports in terms of human rights violations and labor exploitation in Qatar, and Cambodia should think about this before sending people to any destination country,” he said.