Human Rights group Amnesty International has slammed Qatar's treatment of foreign domestic workers and called on the gas-rich country's government to improve conditions as the 2022 World Cup approaches.
In a report released on Wednesday, the group said that workers face tough conditions including extreme working hours, harassment, having their passports taken and in extreme cases, sexual violence.
Dozens of women told Amnesty that they were forced to work up to 100 hours a week, in contravention of the terms agreed when they accepted the job.
"Women who find themselves in abusive households face utterly miserable conditions," Audrey Gaughran, the group's global issues director, said in a statement. "They have few options - if they choose to simply to get out of the house, they will be branded 'runaways' and are likely to end up being detained and deported."
Amnesty says domestic workers are not covered by Qatar's labour laws and this leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The report says there are at least 84,000 female migrants working domestically, many from Southeast Asia.
Qatar's ministry of foreign affairs sought to assert that some legal safeguards exist for foreign domestic workers in a statement sent to Amnesty.
"The exclusion of this group of workers from the scope of the Labor Law does not mean a lack of legal protection for their rights or that there is no law to protect these rights," the statement said.
The OPEC member has come under increased scrutiny since it was awarded the 2022 World Cup.
It's currently seeking to boost its migrant labour force with a vast number of construction projects planned to accommodate the teams and the legions of fans that will follow them.
These guest-workers are subject to the kafala sponsorship system, which leaves them effectively bound to their employers and makes it extremely difficult to leave the country without an employer's permission.
The Amnesty report follows a report into migrant labour conditions in all sectors by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which called on the country's government to give workers access to justice.
In its report, the ILO urged its government to review the so-called "guest worker" system to ensure that overseas construction workers are not being exploited by employers. Non-payment and late payment of wages is a major concern to migrant workers, who have no means of complaining.
The UN agency said the government should immediately review the system "so that it does not place migrant workers in a situation of increased vulnerability to the imposition of exploitative work from which they cannot leave".