DOHA, Qatar— Human rights investigations into Qatar have revealed that the 2022 site for the FIFA World Cup are host to some of the worst labor exploitation cases on the planet. Hundreds of foreign workers in Qatar have died working on construction sites with slave-like conditions, invoking a public relations disaster for the nation.
Currently, Qatar employs foreign labor from countries such as Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Nepalese deaths have been particularly striking as they make up over 20% of Qatar’s migrant workforce. Since Qatar’s preparation for the 2022 World Cup, over 400 migrant workers from Nepal have died on construction grounds and in the past two years, over 450 Indian workers have died as well.
Without radical changes made to Qatar’s current migrant labor system, the death toll is expected to rise up to 4,000 by the time the 2022 World Cup is underway.
Regarding the labor violations, reports indicate that safety and health standards are very poor for migrant workers in Qatar. Some complained they were not issued construction helmets onsite, causing hundreds of workers to endure injuries.
Moreover, “researchers also found migrant workers living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation with no air-conditioning and overflowing sewage. Several camps lacked power and researchers found one large group of men living without running water.”
However, the labor violations in Qatar are not only confined to World Cup development sites. In September of 2013, the United Nations condemned Qatar for employing forced labor and undermining an international convention banning the practice.
The slave-state allegations continue beyond construction workers and extend to foreign maids and cleaners as well. So far, many have complained that they have been “deprived of passports, wages, days off, holidays and freedom to move jobs.” Female workers have also noted additional counts of sexual abuse and harassment.
With international pressure and criticism regarding human rights and labor violations within Qatar, the government has stated that it is reviewing its migrant labor system. Of the many flawed policies within the system, the kafala sponsorship system is one of the most heavily criticized. Under the rule, workers are unable to leave the country or change jobs without the permission of their employers. Such policies reflect a modern day slave system in which up to 21 million people across the globe are affected.
Thus far, Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup has been riddled with controversy with mass cases of labor exploitation occurring. Many organizations have also condemned Qatar for not doing enough to address the problems faced by migrant workers. Ultimately, the problem is a human rights issue. As stated previously, the death toll may rise into the thousands by the time the World Cup begins, presenting significant concern for the migrant labor workforce in Qatar.
– Jugal Patel