Advocacy statements

Forced labour and trafficking in Gulf States

  • Date / 2015
  • Location / Qatar
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


International Humanist and Ethical Union

United Nations Human Rights Council, 29th Session (15th  June – 3th July 2015)

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.” The IHEU welcome the focus of the Special Rapporteur on the prevention of labour exploitation of vulnerable or marginalized groups, such as migrants.

Whilst there has been some conflicting evidence on how acute the relationship between big sporting events and human trafficking and forced labour has been, there is no doubt that the case of Qatar and the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup provides an extremely concerning study.

There have been well-documented reports of extremely poor working and living conditions of those migrants working on building the 2022 facilities. This is exacerbated by the kafala system – a system used in a number of Gulf States – which has been found to be conducive to the exaction of forced labour. Over 1.5 million migrant workers remain at the mercy of their sponsors and employers in Qatar.

The promised reforms on issues such as exit permits, protection of domestic workers, restrictions on changing employers, and the freedom to form or join trade unions have failed to materialise.

What provides further serious concern is reports of journalists being arrested and impeded from investigating the working conditions of migrant workers. This not only undermines the human right to freedom of expression, but ensures the perpetuation of the appalling conditions some migrant workers have to suffer.

In nearby states the situation is equally if not more grave. In Iraq, up to 10,000 women and girls have been abducted or trafficked for sexual slavery. A common trafficking method is for a man to marry his victim through a temporary marriage. Once they reach their destination he divorces her, forces her into prostitution and returns to Iraq to repeat the process.

We urge the international community to do more against human trafficking – especially during so-called ‘fair play’ events.

Suggested academic reference

'Forced labour and trafficking in Gulf States', Humanists International

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