Photo Credits: Omar Chatriwala. Campaigners have been highlighting the lack of migrant rights in the build up to the World Cup.
Shankley quipped “football is a matter of life and death.” In Qatar it’s no joke. Tommy Bergin, from Community and Youth Work, NUI takes a look at labour conditions ahead of 2022.
The hosting of the 2022 World Cup by Qatar has been mired in controversy since it was awarded the finals in 2010. While the decision to move the finals to the winter months of November and December (due to the extreme summer heat of 50+ degrees) for the first time has been grabbing all the headlines, accusations of bribery, corruption, slavery and forced labour have also cast a dark shadow over Qatar’s hosting of the tournament.
Jutting north into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to its exploitation of its large oil and gas fields. As countries go it is in its fledgling years only gaining independence from British rule in 1971.
It relies heavily on foreign labour to man its rapidly growing economy, to the extent that migrant workers comprise approximately 94% of the workforce.
There are about 400,000 Nepalese workers in Qatar among the 1.4 million migrants working on a £137bn construction spree in the tiny Gulf state.
In November the Guardian newspaper reported that Nepalese migrants building this infrastructure were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014.
The figure excludes deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers, raising fears that if fatalities among all migrants were taken into account the toll would almost certainly be more than one a day.
Amnesty international amongst others have been vocal critics of the legal, physical, working, and housing conditions migrants have to endure in Qatar. The Guardian article described conditions as “forced labour and conditions amounting to slavery” while the International Trade Union Confederation says that if conditions don’t improve, at least 4,000 migrants will die before kick-off.
At the crux of this issue is the sponsorship law, known as “kafala”, which limits the rights of movement of foreign workers in Qatar and has allegedly led to widespread exploitation.
The system requires all unskilled labourers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status. This practice has been criticised by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers, as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.
The overall picture is of one of the richest nations in world exploiting workers from some of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.
Pressure from international human rights and civil society groups has been mounting and recently FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in the run-up to the group’s presidential election this spring, has said human rights would be a criterion in awarding World Cup hosting rights.
Mr. Blatter’s pledge was in response to persistent criticism of the decision to allow Qatar to host the tournament. Qatar authorities have responded by promising to implement recommendations made last May 2014 after a report by international law firm DLA Piper.
The report recommended that Qatar reform its labour laws as well as do more to record and investigate the causes of death among the migrant population but it has made little outward progress.
While reform has been promised as of yet nothing of note has changed with Qatar authorities claiming it will take time to change legislation and they are going to take their time to get it right! With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake the fear is that Qatar and FIFA are only paying lip service to the issue of human rights, making the right noises but doing very little to enact change.
With so many lives at stake, legandary manager Bill Shankleys famous quote was never more apt as it is right now.