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When it was announced that Qatar would be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it seemed like a great victory for the Middle East. Qatar would be the first Arab State to run a World Cup. However, shortly after Qatar won their bid, controversy surrounding the country’s extremely high temperature climate during the summer and their laws banning alcohol and homosexuality began to arise in the media. While efforts are being made to make sure all the players feel welcome and accommodated in the country, Qatar’s also coming under fire for their unethical use of migrant workers for the construction of stadiums, roads, hotels, and other buildings relating to the World Cup infrastructure. The conditions for these workers are so harsh, Qatari Government has been accused of engaging in “Modern slavery.”
Modern Day Slavery
Under the frequently criticized Kafala system, migrant workers from mostly Nepal (but also other countries in the Middle East) are legally at the mercy of their employers. This means that, in Qatar, it is very easy for an employer to mistreat its migrant worker without any legal repercussions. According to the Guardian, these various mistreatments have led to, on average, one wrongful death a day over the last summer, mostly due to heart attacks, heart failure and on-site “accidents.” These deaths are caused by poor and cramped living conditions, little to no food or even water, working on an empty stomach, and dangerous work environments. Many of these Nepalese workers relocated to Qatar for work and a better life…unfortunately the promise was not the reality. Even if they wanted to, many of these migrant workers cannot leave because many employers (their “in-country sponsors” under Kafala) are either withholding their pay to discourage them from running away or refusing them the visas that would allow them to leave the country.
In America, if a worker is personally injured on site, they are legally guaranteed some form of compensation. Unfortunately for these Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar, they are not granted that right. In fact, many of these migrant workers’ identifications and passports are confiscated, essentially turning them into illegal aliens.
Bringing the Issue to Light
The British newspaper The Guardian was one of the first presses to really bring this unethical practice to light, writing, “The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.” The Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, has similarly referred the Qatar Kafala as being exploitative in a 146 page report released back in June 2012. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA who in the past championed hard for Qatar, admitted that choosing the country was probably a “mistake.” Even the Nepalese Ambassador to Qatar Maya Kumari Sharma has referred to the situation as an “open jail for migrant workers.” Although the shady recruitment brokers that allow these men to work in Qatar without any regard for their safety should also take some of the blame.
Although the World Cup is still nine years away, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee still doesn’t seem very proactive in solving the problem; and hard labor still seems to be the norm in Qatar. However, with international pressure increasing, the Qatari government may have no choice but to look into this matter deeply. What do you think should be done? Should the World Cup venue be changed?