Qatar will be home to the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and is already surrounded by controversy because of their ignorance towards foreign laborers’ living and working conditions, throughout the event’s development. The issue is known to be occurring for a few years now and has been described as modern slavery widely through the media.
For a bit of background, Qatar has one of the largest growing economies in the world and ranks as one of the top countries for earnings per capita. There are approximately 313,000 Qatari nationals living in the country, but this figure only makes up 12% of the country’s current population. The rest of the population is made up of foreign workers, many being from India and Nepal; 350,000 being from Nepal. Qatar is a popular country to work in, for these nationalities, because of their supposed high rates and other benefits. Most laborers have been recently employed to work on the new infrastructures, like stadiums and railways, for the 2022 World Cup.
However in 2013, ‘The Guardian’ revealed that due to horrible living and working conditions, 1 Nepalese migrant worker was dying every other day and almost 1 every day during the summer. It has been estimated that approximately 7000 workers will die during the construction stage of the event. These men work in 50 degree heat for extremely long hours and sometimes even without fresh water at hand. A lot of these men’s deaths were being recorded as heart attacks, even though these were healthy men and it was highly more likely that they were, and are dying from exhaustion. Media outlets who investigated the situation, reported on the conditions Nepalese men were living in and proved them to be terrible. These men were, and still are living in cramped buildings with up to 12 people in one bedroom and have extremely unsanitary kitchens.
What makes this kind of work unacceptable and essentially slavery is that most of these men are promised a lot more money for their work before flying over to Qatar. The men pay for visas, flights and extra fees which causes some to be in debt once they make it, which leaves many workers vulnerable to exploitation. Many laborers wanted to return home after being exposed to the conditions, but passports were being taken off men and many were not paid for months to make sure that they stayed. Other reports showed that workers were even denied permission to fly back for their families’ funerals after the earthquake occurred in Nepal in 2015.
…workers were even denied permission to fly back for their families’ funerals after the earthquake occurred in Nepal in 2015.
These types of restrictions force people into slavery and what makes it worse is that it is happening in one of the richest countries in the world. In a country that is spending millions and millions of dollars on infrastructure every passing week, with the entire project’s estimated cost being approximately 200 billion US dollars. This I believe is a great example of one of the biggest issues in the world today and it completely baffles me that modern slavery is still happening. Just like countless other situations, the government decided to take action only after the issue became public and was covered in the media.
In December 2016, the Qatari government introduced new labor laws that were meant to be beneficial to the migrant workers by allowing them to change jobs easier and leave the country. Although these laws were implemented, reports have shown that nothing has been changed in regards to living standards and working conditions. A trade union organizer who was secretly working in Qatar, stated that even though the government changed the laws, the same repressive ones still exist but are hiding under different names. The Nepalese government has not been too active about this issue because there is a high unemployment rate in Nepal, so by sending men to Qatar, it helps their issue. Whereas Qatar lacks labor workers, so the partnership works.
Although this partnership between the two countries makes sense on paper, in reality Qatar is ultimately abusing its power of being a rich and powerful country. Qatar is exploiting its foreign workers even though the country has the means to pay them properly and heavily relies on them for the development of the World Cup infrastructures. This kind of attitude towards any human beings, needs to stop and country governments need to come together and unite to fix the problem.