Migrants claim recruiters lured them into forced labour at top Qatar hotel

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Migrant workers at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel in Qatar say they paid recruitment fees to secure their jobs, leaving them vulnerable to forced labour. All photographs by Pete Pattisson.

The Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel is like a fairytale palace from a manmade island on an exclusive stretch of Qatar’s coastline. It is fancy and there are lined Ferraris and Rolls-Royces parking beside.

A 20-metre chandelier hangs glittering in its marble-lined lobby, and the royal suite goes for more than £12,000 a night.

This hotel is opened in 2015, and it’s popular with Qatar’s elite, who gather at weekends to enjoy its lavish rooms and beachfront location.

However, life is very different for the men and women who guard the cars, clean the rooms and manicure the lawns.

They come from some of the poorest parts of the world – south Asia, east and west Africa and the Philippines – but have paid large recruitment fees, some as high as £3,160, to work here.

Paying fees to recruitment agents to secure a job in Qatar is a widespread practice, but leaves workers vulnerable to debt bondage and forced labour.

The security guards endure 12-hour shifts outdoors in temperatures that can top 45C, but earn little more than £8 a day – the price of a glass of fresh juice at the hotel.

Some say they have worked for three or four months without a day off, but are fined five days’ pay if caught sleeping on duty.

Interviews with 19 hotel staff reveal multiple allegations of breaches of Qatar’s labour laws, including salaries below the minimum wage. The findings reveal for the first time that the well-documented exploitation of construction workers in Qatar extends to the hospitality sector.

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