#Qatar2022 – Undercover report reveals extent of ongoing exploitation of World Cup workers

| June 27, 2019

The dreadful conditions for workers building the stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, now just over two years away, are once again making headlines. This renewed criticism comes on top of recent developments regarding irregularities around Qatar’s original bid to hold the tournament.

The detention and questioning of former UEFA president Michel Platini by French authorities last week reminded the public of the controversial voting process that saw the tiny Gulf state selected to host the tournament, despite its unsuitable climate and lack of any existing facilities. Since the awarding of the competition in 2011, more than half of the 22-man panel that cast the fateful votes have faced bribery accusations.

Now reports are emerging of the continued abuse of the foreign workers who have enabled Qatar to complete its stadiums ahead of schedule. Salaries of just 80p an hour, confiscated passports, the inability to unionise, horrific health and safety standards have all been well documented. They demonstrate the risks of organising the competition in a country that has a below par human rights record. It has been estimated that if one were to organise a minute’s silence for every worker killed so far, the first 44 matches of the 2022 World Cup would need to be played in silence.

Pressure on the country to improve conditions and rights for the thousands of Nepalis, Filipinos, Pakistanis and others did lead to widely publicised promises of reform. Revelations are now coming to light however that prove many of these reforms exist only on paper. In the past, journalists seeking to cover the issue have been led on carefully crafted PR tours, with interviews granted only in the presence of minders and those workers who could be relied upon to follow the official line. On 6 June however, an undercover investigation by German public broadcaster WDR revealed Nepali migrant workers had gone unpaid for months and were not being provided with appropriate food or shelter, with eight workers to a room and just one toilet between 200.

In hidden camera interviews they complained “We are captured. We live off water and bread, we can’t afford anything else.” The lack of income also affects their families back home, who depend on the salaries for their survival. “Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to be dead.”, said one. They also confirmed that their passports were still being confiscated, placing them in virtual captivity.

The exposé shows how despite some improvements, little has changed on the ground since the Qatari government announced efforts to reform the Kafala System in 2014. It drastically displays the disconnect between what the Qatari government wanted the reporters to see and the reality of the horrific conditions on the ground.

In light of these revelations, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission have already announced their intention to cooperate on the protection of their citizens in Qatar. CHR chair Chito Gascon said: “Ultimately, there was a commitment on the part of Qatar that they will abide by international labour standards and the only way by which we can ensure that is to surface the issues.”, promising to “work very closely with our respective embassies there to make sure that any issues involving labour rights will be quickly addressed by the Qatar government.” The foreign minister of Pakistan has also vowed to pressure Qatar into improving wages and health coverage for its workers.

Speculation that the World Cup could be taken from Qatar is yet again rife on social media, unlikely as this scenario may be. Pressure will certainly grow on FIFA to take action over the ongoing abuse of workers in the country, while the French corruption investigation shows that scrutiny of Fifa’s internal workings, and those of Qatar, is unlikely to abate any time soon.

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Category: A Frontpage, Human Rights, United Arab Emirates

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