Skip to main content

Press Release - Broken Promises: Forced Labour in Saudi Arabia and the Fast Tracked World Cup Bid


18 June 2024

Broken Promises: Forced Labour in Saudi Arabia and the Fast Tracked World Cup Bid 

"One day I was feeling pain in my body, so I took rest for a while. The supervisor came and abused me and slapped me twice. After that I was instructed and threatened that if this happens again, I will be fired from the job."

- *Kamal, an Indian maintenance worker employed in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, interviewed in 2023

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is set to lock hosting the 2034 World Cup in July even though the nation does not meet FIFA requirements for protecting human rights including when it hosted the 2023 Club World Cup, findings from Equidem’s network of investigators revealed today.  

“As detailed in this report, and despite persistent engagement with FIFA by Equidem and other rights organisations, the global football governing body is failing to uphold its own standards by entertaining the bid from Saudi Arabia,” said Mustafa Qadri, Equidem’s CEO.  

In-depth, confidential, one-to-one interviews with dozens of migrant workers conducted by Equidem documented significant labour and human rights violations, including workplace violence and indicators of forced labour facing migrant workers in the hospitality, maintenance and construction sectors in Saudi Arabia. 

All interviews were conducted by Equidem team members who are either currently or formerly migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, providing critical insight into working conditions for the 13.4 million migrant workers employed in Saudi Arabia. Interviews were held between May – December 2023 and February 2020 – July 2021.  

Migrant workers described nationality-based discrimination and vulnerability to abuse, deceptive recruitment practices, recruitment fees, and abusive working conditions—including physical violence, intimidation and threats, overwork, and exposure to high temperatures for extended durations. 

"The recruitment agency took my signature on the contract at the eleventh hour, close to the flight time. I had to sign numerous documents without reading or reviewing them."

- *Arnav, a Bangladeshi security guard employed in Tabuk, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia interviewed in 2023.

  • 70 % migrant workers were deceived about the terms and conditions of their employment 
  • 53% of migrant workers paid recruitment fees creating ongoing risks of debt bondage to repay recruitment debt 
  • 12% of migrant workers had their passports confiscated by their employers 
  • 9% of migrant workers face health issues due to physical labour under prolonged exposure to scorching heat 
  • 7% of migrant workers experience physical violence at work 

These rights violations take place in a context of systematic legal exclusion of migrant workers from labour and human rights protections, even as Saudi Arabia is one of the main destinations globally for migrant workers who make up nearly 40 percent of the country’s population.

"It is common for supervisors to shout at workers, put pressure on us to work constantly—even when we go to drink water or to the toilet, they shout at us. If a worker is found resting for even two minutes, he has to hear abuse."

- *Nitin, an Indian maintenance worker employed in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia interviewed in 2023 

Such indicators of forced labour, when taken together, can and do create forced labour conditions for migrant workers, putting Saudi Arabia in breach of labour and human rights commitments under the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), and the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 that are currently in force within the country. The persistence of rights violations and perpetuation of a context where migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation underscores the inadequacy of labour and migration reform processes both in Saudi Arabia and within the FIFA organisation.  

“Everyone is experiencing health risks related to the climate. Seasonal changes significantly impact those of us with asthma and kidney stones. Joint pain from uric acid is common in this environment.”

- *Shankar, an electrical maintenance worker employed in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia interviewed in 2023. 

The pattern of legal exclusion, discrimination, exploitation, and suppression of freedom of association in Saudi Arabia violates fundamental human rights. At this stage, if FIFA goes forward with confirming Saudia Arabia as the World Cup host, it is likely that tens if not hundreds of thousands of people will be at serious risk of egregious labour exploitation and human rights abuses. FIFA must ensure that the Saudi Arabia bid to host FIFA World Cup 2034 includes actionable and binding commitments to address risk factors for rights violations prior to confirmation. 

“FIFA is paving a path of egregious abuses that Equidem is documenting in real time,” Mustafa Qadri, said. “In order to uphold meaningful human rights commitments, FIFA must select tournament host countries where there is demonstrable evidence that the state has the capacity and ability to prevent and remedy human and labour rights violations. This must be done in collaboration with human rights defenders, civil society and — most crucially — migrant workers themselves.”  



Contact:  Jason Nemerovski / 


“Broken Promises: Forced Labour in Saudi Arabia and the Fast Tracked World Cup Bid”

Date & Time: June 18, 2024, 9:00 AM (EST) / 2:00 PM (BST) / 6:30 PM (IST)

Registration Link: Webinar Registration - Zoom

For more information on Equidem please visit: