French builder Vinci faces claim of forced labor in Qatar

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2015 4:27 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - French construction group Vinci faces a claim from a campaign group over alleged forced labor involving migrant workers on building projects tied to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"Vinci absolutely denies the claims made by Sherpa. The group respects local labor laws and fundamental rights in Qatar as well as in all the countries where it operates," a Vinci spokesman said by telephone.

The Sherpa NGO said in a statement it had a submitted a claim in a French court against Vinci Construction Grand Projects and the managers of the Qatari unit QDVC for "forced labor" and "keeping someone in servitude".

Laetitia Liebert, Head of the Sherpa NGO, told Le Parisien in a interview that one of the NGO's lawyers traveled to Qatar and found that migrants worked 66 hours a week and had their passports confiscated.

"In Qatar, each QDVC collaborator has free access to his passport while work and rest times are strictly respected," the Vinci spokesman said in rebuttal, adding the company had not been notified of the claim.

Qatar is Vinci's second largest shareholder through its Qatar Investment Fund, which holds 5.3 percent according to Thomson Reuters data.

Allegations of forced labor in Qatar come up frequently the wealthy Middle Eastern state.

Qatar authorities have denied these claims and accused foreign media of running a malicious campaign against the first Gulf nation to host a Soccer World Cup. Qatar also says none of the workers employed for World Cup projects have been exploited.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Callus)