Deaths and forced labour in lead up to Qatar World Cup
Thousands could die constructing new stadiums
The Guardian yesterday reported that at least 4,000 labourers could die in Qatar before the beginning of the World Cup in 2022 if the labour conditions of migrant workers continued. Between 4th June and 8th August, 44 Nepalese workers were said to have died, about half from heart failure or accidents. 41 Indian nationals were also said to have died over the summer, 27 of them in the hottest month of August.
1.2 million migrant labourers work in Qatar, many in the construction industry, and many are building the stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. Conditions were said to include working in 50C heat with no fresh drinking water. Living conditions were also reported to be unsanitary and overcrowded, with sickness described as “endemic”.
The executive committee of FIFA, the World Cup governing body, was said to be meeting to consider the impact of the allegations of labour rights abuses. The article reported that these included a modern form of slavery whereby identity documents and salaries were withheld from migrant workers to prevent them from leaving the country.
The Qatari labour minister was said to have announced that more inspectors would be recruited to conduct raids and checks on companies “to ensure they comply with labour laws”. However, a response to this announcement on the International Trade Union Confederation website described it as “weak and disappointing... There are already labour inspectors and they have no impact. What is needed are laws that protect workers’ rights to join a union, bargain collectively and refuse unsafe work, and only then can inspectors do their job”.
The ITUC article described the “kafala system” under which migrant workers were recruited: strict visa sponsorship rules mean that workers cannot change jobs without their employer’s permission and cannot leave the country unless their employer signs an exit permit. A study conducted by the Journal of Arabian Studies in June 2013 was said to have found that 90% of workers surveyed had their passports held by their employers.
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