Work Visas Enable Human Trafficking in Qatar

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Kafala law in Qatar perpetuates a system of human trafficking under which immigrants become a “commodity in a profit generating system.” In Qatar there are an estimated 1.8 million migrant workers, and 1,000 die every year. That number could be as high as 7,000 by the time construction is completed on the 2022 FIFA World Cup center, a project that relies heavily on immigrant labor.

Labor brokers recruit immigrants in their home countries, charging them for things like visas and other identification, and promising them not only employment but better wages in Qatar. Kafala law requires that every immigrant have a sponsor. Without a sponsor you cannot work, and it is illegal to work for anyone who is not your sponsor. It is also illegal to leave the country without your sponsor’s permission. The problem with this is that, having acquired their visas, many immigrants arrive only to find out there is no job. If they find work there is little money. Sometimes they are not paid at all.

In 2014, the Guardian reported that workers from Nepal in Qatar died at a rate of one for every two days while working construction on the building that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. BBC reporters were arrested in 2015 for reporting on Qatar’s World Cup laborers. Amnesty International issued a press release on the subject of Qatar and migrant workers in March 2016 that detailed pieces of a 50-page report called “The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game.” Geoffrey Smith responded to that press release in a piece he wrote for Fortune.


Owen Gibson, “Fifa Faces Legal Challenge over Qatar Migrant Workers,” Guardian, October 10, 2016,

Paula Renekiewicz, “Sweat Makes the Green Grass Grow: The Precarious Future of Qatar’s Migrant Workers in the Run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Under the Kafala System and Recommendations for Effective Reform.” American University Law Review, 65, Issue 3 (2016), 721-761,

Student Researcher: Kyrsten Stringer (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)