The Kafala system has come under intense scrutiny for the slave-like conditions that it fosters and creates.
In the modern day, it is not uncommon to hear unhappy news coming out of the Middle East, but the FIFA World Cup of Soccer will be held in Qatar 2022. This is excellent news for the country of nearly 3 million people to be able to host an event that will reach soccer’s billions of fans around the globe. With Qatar as the richest nation in the world per capita, it promises to be a spectacle that fans won’t forget. Unless the richest country in the world was allowing slave labour to occur in order to build the infrastructure where the soccer was to be played.
For Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup it requires certain infrastructure. Along with eight new stadiums, there are things like rail networks, a new airport, metro train system, and hotels that need to be built in order to accommodate the plethora of fans that will visit the nation. The project has employed approximately 1.5 million migrant workers from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal to help construct the infrastructure. However, with regards to World Cup preparations, Qatar has been criticised for human rights abuses such as forced labour and human trafficking, the slavery-like Kafala system, deplorable living and working conditions, indefinite detentions and discrimination against migrant workers, LGBTI and women. Unfortunately, there are myriad reasons as to why this is occurring, but it is the Kafala system that wreaks havoc in creating slave labour.
The Kafala system is an employment framework that is utilised in Middle-Eastern countries such as Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan. It requires sponsorship from another nation for a worker to be employed and reside in that country. It is at this point where the sponsor (employer) gains substantial power over the migrant, to the point where without the employers permission the worker cannot leave the job, change jobs, or exit the country, and the sponsor is able to threaten deportation if a worker questions the terms of the contract. This system has created systematic abuse as employers are able to exploit and abuse workers with little recourse, leading many to argue that the Kafala system facilitates exploitative and slave labour. The Kafala system has come under intense scrutiny for the slave-like conditions that it fosters and creates.
It is an interesting question of whether FIFA or Qatar have a greater obligation to not engage in or promote slave labour. Well, it isn’t really a question, is it? It’s evident that Qatar, as a nation, a very well equipped nation, have been neglecting their human rights responsibilities to, at bare minimum, not provide slave-labour working conditions. It’s also evident that FIFA, as a one of the most recognisable brands and organisations in the world, have an obligation to not be associated with a country that allows such horrendous conditions to occur. Hopefully FIFA and Qatar can come together to eradicate the slave labour that is currently going on with World Cup preparations so that it can be enjoyed as the fantastic spectacle that it is.