Migrant workers at a construction site in Doha on November 16, 2014
Migrant workers at a construction site in Doha on November 16, 2014 © - AFP/File
Migrant workers at a construction site in Doha on November 16, 2014
Last updated: March 24, 2015

French builder Vinci denies claims of forced labour in Qatar

French construction giant Vinci on Tuesday denied claims of using forced labour on building projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

It follows a complaint lodged in a French court by the Sherpa NGO accusing Vinci, which also operates motorways and airports, of abusing migrant workers in the Gulf state.

Contacted by AFP, a Vinci spokesman said the company "totally denies Sherpa's allegations".

"In Qatar, as in all countries in which Vinci operates, the group respects the local labour law and human rights," the spokesman added.

The Sherpa NGO said in a statement it had a submitted a claim in a French court against Vinci and its Qatari subsidiary QDVC for "forced labour", "servitude" and "concealment".

"The on-site investigations found the use by these companies of various threats to force vulnerable people into scandalous working and living conditions for a paltry salary," the NGO said.

The NGO claimed that "passports were confiscated by the company and workers were threatened if they claimed their right to better working conditions or housing, if they wished to resign or change employer".

While Sherpa claimed they had met "many obstacles" during their investigation, Vinci insisted they had "opened the door (of its) sites to unions, international NGOs and journalists".

Sherpa Executive Director Laetitia Liebert told French daily Le Parisien that by their action they hoped "to oblige Vinci to scrupulously respect the rights of migrant workers in the coming years and to be an example for the construction industry as a whole".

Qatar gave undertakings last year to improve workplace safety, housing, and pay and conditions for its huge expatriate workforce after world football governing body FIFA came under huge pressure from rights groups to review its decision to award the emirate the 2022 World Cup.

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