LONDON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A day after noting "appalling disregard" for foreign workers, Amnesty International said Qatar is more open and transparent than its regional neighbors.
Companies in Qatar show "appalling disregard" for their foreign workers, housing them in inhumane conditions and failing to pay them, the human rights group says.
In a report based on interviews with more than 200 migrant workers, Amnesty International Sunday called on Qatar to enforce existing laws designed to protect workers and to overhaul its sponsorship system.
Many of the workers are there to help build the stadium that will host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.
"It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world, that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive," Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in the report.
Shetty also called on Qatari companies to "be proactive and not just take action when abuses are drawn to their attention."
About 1.35 million foreign nationals work in Qatar, AI said, and constitute 94 percent of the country's total workforce.
Amnesty accused companies and the Qatari government of "failing" foreign workers but Shetty said meetings about the situation with government officials have yielded progress, a good sign, Gulf News reported Monday.
"Qatar on human rights is much more open, more accessible. We met with several government officials and they were very open ... . In all of our meetings, one of the refreshing things was ..., across the board, they are very willing to acknowledge that there is a problem and they are very strongly oriented towards finding a solution to the arising challenges," he said.
AI said it documented a range of labor abuses in interviews with 210 workers in the construction industry conducted during visits to Qatar in October 2012 and March of this year. The organization also contacted 22 construction companies operating in the country.
Among its findings, the organization said, were that 56 percent didn't have a health card that gave them access to public hospitals, 21 percent "sometimes, rarely or never" received their salary on time and 20 percent got a different salary than promised.
Researchers also found workers living in squalid conditions, with no air conditioning, overflowing sewage and uncovered septic tanks. Some groups had no electricity while one group had no running water.