Posts

FIFA World Cup QatarThis year, from November 20 to December 18, 32 countries competed in Qatar for the coveted championship cup. While the FIFA World Cup Qatar tournament is an extraordinary display of international collaboration and unity, it is important to consider the social ramifications of the World Cup and its contribution to poverty. For the last several years, the impacts of major sporting events on the poor communities in host cities have been a point of concern. This year, human rights advocates all over the world are condemning Qatar for its disregard for human rights, particularly the mistreatment of migrant laborers.

Migrant Laborers in Qatar

Since Qatar was awarded the privilege of hosting the tournament 12 years ago, the nation has poured an estimated $220 billion into construction This includes the building of eight stadiums, several new hotels, rail and highway infrastructure and “expansion of the airport,” Human Rights Watch reports, through the efforts of millions of migrant workers. While FIFA moved the tournament itself to November to protect the athletes from dangerously high heat levels, laborers toiled in extreme conditions of heat.

Though it is impossible to obtain exact numbers, “official Qatari statistics show that 15,021 non-Qataris died in the country between 2010 and 2019.” After contacting five embassies in Qatar (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), The Guardian confirmed at least 6,750 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar since FIFA awarded the nation the games. However, this is an underestimation as there are many more countries that have sent workers to Qatar.

Media reports detail inhumane and unsafe working conditions in FIFA World Cup-related projects. These deaths have also put a spotlight on the Gulf region’s “kafala” (sponsorship) system, under which “laborers require their employers’ permission to switch jobs, return home or even open a bank account.” Workers cannot join labor unions or strike and Human Rights Watch has even documented “wage theft by a prominent Qatari construction firm with FIFA-related projects.” It is still standard for many migrant workers to pay inordinate recruitment fees that result in a form of debt bondage.

Restitution and Compensation for Deaths

Officials have blamed thousands of these deaths on “natural causes,” overlooking the harsh inhumane working conditions. According to the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, affected families have the right to request restitution or financial compensation for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.

However, when these deaths are attributed to “natural causes” or classified as “non-work-related,” Qatar’s labor law refuses families any compensation. Amnesty International says the Qatari government has neglected to properly investigate these deaths. Economic hardship resulting from these wrongful deaths may push families into debt bondage and increase rates of child marriage and child labor.

Human rights organizations say FIFA is making minimal efforts to prevent these deaths or set acceptable standards of protection for migrant workers. FIFA is disregarding its 2017 Human Rights Policy that pledges to “go beyond its responsibility to respect human rights” by taking “measures to promote the protection of human rights and positively contribute to their enjoyment.”

At the “Managing the Beautiful Game” conference on May 2, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was questioned on whether FIFA supports the families of the workers who perished building FIFA World Cup stadiums. Infantino retorted, “when you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride,” later adding, “6,000 might have died in other works and so on…[but] FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world.”

Taking Action

A media attaché at the Qatari Embassy highlighted in a November 2022 article that “the World Cup has been a catalyst for Qatar to develop a robust labor program.”

“Reforms include a new nondiscriminatory minimum wage, the removal of barriers to change jobs and the introduction of a worker compensation fund in 2018 that had paid out at least $350 million” at the time of writing.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) confirms this progress, recognizing on November 1, 2022, that Qatar had “undertaken comprehensive labor reforms to improve the conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.” The reforms have “yielded benefits for workers, employers and the economy more broadly.”

Individuals and organizations around the world have come together to illuminate the human rights violations occurring in Qatar. Football clubs, players, supporters and celebrities from around the globe even called for a boycott of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. While there is no true compensation for losses of life, the circumstances have brought the international community together in support of basic human rights.

– Carly Ryan Brister
Photo: Flickr

the-migrant-workers-in-qatar-making-the-2022-world-cup-possibleSpontaneous celebration swept Qatar in 2010 after the FIFA governing body awarded the country the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The small gulf country is now set to host the world’s most expensive World Cup with more than $200 billion in infrastructure spending. Qatar has undertaken the building of a new airport, seven new stadiums, the expansion of metro lines and the laying of new roads to accommodate more than a million tourists expected to attend the games. With more than a decade of labor going into preparations and more than $17 billion in projected economic benefits to the Qatar economy, the 2022 World Cup is a massive undertaking with a big payout. Few recognize the extent to which the migrant workers in Qatar are responsible for making this all happen.

Migrant Labor in Qatar

About 30,000 migrant workers have undertaken the task of erecting these state-of-the-art stadiums, most of whom traveled from Asia and Africa in search of greater economic opportunity. Even after the stadiums are complete, migrant workers will be responsible for the day-to-day service operations and hospitality provided to guests of the World Cup. The long-awaited thrill of the soccer games themselves and the economic output that the events will provide for Qatar would not be possible without the hard work and sacrifice of these impoverished migrant workers in Qatar.

However, Amnesty International reports that these workers endure exploitation despite their vulnerability and necessity to the project. Individuals are subjected to high debt procured while trying to cover illegal recruitment fees. For example, about one-third of the Qatari foreign labor force consists of Nepali and Bangladeshi migrants whose typical recruitment fees amount to around $4,000 each — a debt that takes a minimum of 12 months to pay off.

Another practice that has received increased scrutiny as World Cup preparations are underway is the protracted non-payment of wages. This is a particularly distressing issue considering that workers must make payments on the loans they took out to cover recruitment fees. Many workers are also responsible for family members back home, who rely on them financially. Amnesty International found that thousands of workers have endured underpayment or no payment at all for months and sometimes years.

In 2019, hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar took part in protests over these practices and the generally poor working conditions.

The Kafala Labor System

Key to this exploitation is the “kafala” legal system of labor, in which private companies and employers can sponsor migrant workers, providing housing in dormitories and covering foreign relocation expenses. These migrant laborers are bound to their sponsoring employers and cannot quit, change employers or leave the host country without their employer’s permission. Workers cannot join trade unions either.

The good news is that in 2017, Qatar signed a treaty with the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, promising reform. Qatar lived up to that promise through the passing of several pieces of legislation. In 2018, the country ended the requirement that migrant workers obtain permission from their employers to leave the nation, and in 2020, Qatar undertook further reform to allow all migrant workers to change jobs without their sponsors’ permission and introduced a minimum wage.

In March 2018, Qatar also established Committees for the Settlement of Labour Disputes to stand in place of the country’s “ineffective [labor] courts.” These Committees guaranteed that workers would receive their judgments from the court within six weeks. Qatar also established a “workers’ support and insurance fund” for exploited workers who do not receive payment from their employers.

The Story of Bijoy

However, the promise of these reforms has not quite panned out as desired as courts are overwhelmed with cases and processing times are backed up. Amnesty International’s reporting on Bijoy’s story captures the human toll of this bureaucratic backlog.

Bijoy is a migrant worker from India who worked for three years at a Qatari construction company. Bijoy had more than $3,500 of unpaid wages owed to him by the company. He waited three months to have his claim processed by the labor committee, living in conditions of squalor with no money. Finally, after seven months of non-payment, Bijoy accepted just $275 and ticket fare for a flight to India as compensation as he had a sick father to return to in India. Stories like Bijoy’s are unfortunately all too common.

Looking Forward

As the November 21 World Cup 2022 kick-off date approaches, excitement is building around the world as audiences prepare to experience the culmination of years of planning and effort. However, Amnesty International is advocating that FIFA and the Qatari government refund recruitment fees and compensate individuals for abuses before the footballing celebrations move forward. Amnesty International recommends that FIFA set aside $400 million out of the $6 billion in expected revenue, almost equivalent to the total prize fund for the World Cup, for these purposes. Amnesty International continues to push for a commitment to compensation from Qatar and FIFA, hopeful that Qatar will, as it has done in the past, implement the reforms and restorative justice necessary to uphold the rights of migrant workers in Qatar.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Latin America
The diverse sprawl of nations that make up Latin America and the Caribbean is currently mired in the intense ramifications of inequity and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite internal efforts from across Latin American nations to fight off poverty, inequality and illness, it is evident that more foreign aid to Latin America is necessary. The aid should fall into the two main categories of helping maintain sovereignty for Latin Americans and growing their economies.

The Current Crisis

The most significant threat to lifting Latin American nations out of poverty is the rate of high inequality paired alongside low social program spending, which has resulted in the region accounting for 28% of total global COVID-19 fatalities by April 2022 despite only making up 8.4% of the world’s population. In addition, ineffective cash transfers and tax systems, which often neglect to collect from the wealthiest citizens, result in women, Indigenous communities and other marginalized groups bearing the brunt of the economic fallout.

The impact of the pandemic has only exacerbated the issues of low social program spending and lack of progressive taxation. Increased food insecurity, economic contraction of 7.4% in the region in 2020, as well as increased poverty and extreme poverty rates, all paint the current picture of economic and social inequality in Latin America and the need for more aid to alleviate the region’s levels of poverty.

Current Aid

Funds are currently in play, supplying aid to Latin America for COVID-19 relief and future infrastructure support. The World Bank initiated funding for public health systems throughout 2021, various industry support funds, vaccines and emergency health response improvement. Countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama have received substantive aid with the primary focus on COVID-19 and health-related recovery.

Over the past 20 years, the need for aid in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained high, but due to developmental growth in the region, the “U.S. government has increasingly concentrated those resources in fewer countries and sectors.”

The rate of poverty in the region reduced from 45.3% in 2002 to 30.5% in 2019. However, around 2015, progress in many Latin American nations began to stagnate. Political instability deteriorated economic conditions in nations such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, and poverty levels only worsened across the region in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the Biden administration has proposed as of March 31, 2022, a foreign assistance budget of $2.1 billion for aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. However, these funds have yet to receive approval and the type of causes that the money would go to suggests that there is no exclusive focus on marginalized groups and women in these countries.

The Necessary Aid

An Amnesty International report in April 2022 shows the need for more aid to Latin America in the coming months, but the kind of aid that goes beyond basic health and economic assistance. Most notably, countries must rework the frame of providing funding and aid by opting for a “human rights-based approach to recovering from the pandemic and tackling inequality.”

Looking Ahead

With much of the impact of the social and economic fallout of the pandemic falling on the women of these countries, aid that is to come to the region must take into account how services and economic improvements can work for women. Aid that helps Latin American countries provide financial investment for improved infrastructure is aid that can help alleviate poverty. In addition, aid with a focus on equality and taking into account the social and economic discrepancies on a nation-by-nation basis can more adequately contribute to ending poverty in Latin America.

– Albert Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Singapore
Like most of the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has undergone a health and economic crisis while battling the novel coronavirus. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore has disproportionately affected Singapore’s low-wage migrant workforce as the country continues the fight against the virus and the race to distribute vaccines.

COVID-19 Within Singapore’s Low-Wage Workforce

As early as the fall of 2020, Singapore seemed to return to life as normal with restaurants reopening and malls filling with crowds. However, the nation’s low-wage workforce, which included primarily migrant workers, faced a COVID-19 surge and a battle of its own.

Singapore’s low-wage workforce consists of more than 300,000 foreign construction and manufacturing workers from countries such as India and Bangladesh. These workers live in crowded dorms throughout their work period where COVID-19 quickly becomes rampant. Migrant workers accounted for nearly 95% of the country’s novel coronavirus cases as of September 8, 2020. With the placement of quarantine orders on these workers after numerous outbreaks, many had to stay in hot, overcrowded rooms without ventilation. As a result, the workers became exposed to the virus.

These workers have been extremely vulnerable to both the novel coronavirus and economic fallout due to factors such as overcrowded dorms, “hazardous working conditions,” low pay and lack of access to social protection. Many workers did not receive full wages throughout the quarantine order and faced high health costs when eventually returning home.

Poverty in East Asia: The Effects of the COVID-19

Despite recent post-COVID-19 economic recoveries in many East Asian countries, the World Bank reported that emerging post-pandemic recovery is and will continue to be uneven as the country’s most impoverished bear the brunt of the COVID-19 economic crisis. Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific stopped declining for the first time in more than 20 years as an estimated 32 million citizens across the region were unable to escape poverty as a result of unequal access to social, medical, educational and technological support.

A Future of Hope and a United Fight

Hope for Singapore’s citizens continues to come in the form of vaccines. More than a third of the country’s 5.7 million citizens have been fully vaccinated and nearly half of the population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot as of June 19, 2021. The government plans to complete vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Additionally, the World Bank Group has begun numerous relief programs in Eastern Asia and the Pacific region. Part of the organization’s $125 billion fund will go toward combating the “health, economic and social impacts” of the novel coronavirus globally and the World Bank Group plans to establish COVID-19 fast-track facilities. The World Bank Group intends to provide emergency funding for medical supplies and medical training while also working to strengthen national public health systems.

Returning to “Normal”

As Singapore eases back into normality as its population becomes vaccinated, a new awareness of social inequality is spreading domestically and internationally. A BBC article from September 18, 2020, states that the crisis exposes a “pandemic of inequality” within the country. Meanwhile, a foreign policy piece, published on May 6, 2020, describes Singapore’s lack of action in combating the economic crisis as a failure to see migrant workers as people.

While inequalities and poverty in Singapore have worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, activists around the world and across the nation are advocating for better conditions and awareness as the reopening process occurs. Organizations such as the World Bank Group, the Human Rights Campaign and Amnesty International are continuing to provide aid and advocacy for extremely impoverished people in Singapore. As the country climbs out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a future of hope and awareness presents itself. There is hope that the distribution of vaccines, education about the crisis and international funding will reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Germany's Supply Chain Law
On March 3, 2021, the German cabinet proposed a supply chain law (Lieferkettengesetz) obliging companies active in Germany to ensure that their entire supply chain meets human rights standards. Under the National Action Plan (Nationaler Aktionsplan), Germany has promoted human rights among companies since 2016, but a study in 2020 found that only 22% of responding firms had undertaken the recommended measures. Under this plan, modeled on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the German government agreed to consider imposing a mandatory due diligence law if fewer than half of German firms satisfied the human rights monitoring criteria.

Although the cabinet had planned to present a draft of the law in March 2020, Peter Altmeier, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, held up the proceedings. On February 2021, the two ministers driving the law announced that they reached a consensus with Altmeier. Hubertus Heil, Minister for Development Co-Operation, and Gerd Müller, Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, both pushed for more impactful human rights protection, while Altmeier was adamant about safeguarding German economic competitiveness.

What Germany’s Supply Chain Law Imposes

Germany’s supply chain law requires firms active in Germany to perform various due diligence procedures in order to monitor, prevent and ameliorate potential human rights abuses in their supply chains. In its current form, the law would come into effect in 2023 and in its first year only apply to the 600 largest companies, all with more than 3,000 employees. After the first year, it would apply to a further 2,900 companies, all with more than 1,000 employees. By 2026, the government or a contracted body will carry out an evaluation of the law’s effectiveness and, if necessary, provide ideas for improvement.

For suppliers with whom they have a contractual relationship, companies have to set up a risk management system, conduct regular risk analyses and take action against known human rights breaches. They also have to establish a procedure through which to hear complaints. For example, people working in unsafe conditions can theoretically voice their situation through this channel. That being said, many of these people are often not aware of their right to do so, nor are many of them able to navigate the German legal system. To overcome this problem, Germany’s supply chain law grants civil society organizations the power to file lawsuits on behalf of these mistreated workers.

Remaining Problems of the Draft

For suppliers they do not have direct contact with, companies only have to perform risk analyses if they are aware of a potential human rights breach. If, for example, Amnesty International publishes information about human rights abuses in Congolese mines that supply electric car batteries for Volkswagen, then the law requires Volkswagen to conduct a risk analysis.

However, as this demonstrates, companies have less monitoring responsibility for more removed suppliers. Many non-governmental organizations argue that this provides too little protection for the mining industry. Moreover, many direct suppliers of the largest German companies are already located in Germany, potentially limiting the law’s impact abroad.

How Germany’s Supply Chain Law Monitors and Enforces Compliance

The German Federal Bureau for the Economy and Export Control (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle) will monitor whether companies are complying with Germany’s supply chain law. Companies judged to fall short of what the law demands will face fines and sanctions. Fines will not exceed 8 million euros or 2% of annual revenue for companies with annual revenue of over 400 million euros. If a company receives a fine of more than 175,000 euros, it also cannot compete for public procurement contracts for three years.

Aside from these punitive measures, the law also requires companies to hire or designate an employee who is responsible for evaluating whether the company is abiding by the law or not. The company’s leadership, whatever form it may take, must regularly meet with this employee.

Next Steps

In April 2021, Germany’s supply chain law will enter into discussion in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower chamber of parliament. Non-governmental organizations are trying to galvanize public support in order to convince or pressure parliament into making the law more comprehensive and stringent. In addition to arguing that the restriction to direct suppliers makes the law too small in scope, they have criticized that companies face neither civil nor criminal liability.

Whether they will successfully strengthen Germany’s supply chain law is too early to say. However, the government aims to approve the law before Germany’s elections in September 2021. By then, the extent and potential impact of Germany’s supply chain law on global human rights will be clearer. For now, it is a promising and hopeful, yet somewhat restrained, step in the right direction.

– Alex Vanezis
Photo: Flickr

Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
Since November 2016, the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has been ongoing, which is an issue that links to its population’s identity. A section of the English-speaking minority population of the country, originally from the northwest and southwest regions of the country, is protesting against the current government. Their claims mostly focus on the marginalization of the English language, the lack of access to English education, the common law system and even jobs for native anglophone Cameroonians. The conflict started with a peaceful protest from anglophone lawyers and teachers and escalated with the emergence of an anglophone separatist movement. As the situation remains tense, the attention of the international community is necessary.

The State of Affairs

Beyond the language and identity claims, this conflict collides with other threats, such as Boko Haram, that have significantly weakened the economy of the country, especially in the northwest and southwest regions. In 2018, the National Organization of Employers, Gicam, reported that about 45% of the cocoa produced in the country is in the southwest, and 75% of Cameroonian arabica coffee comes from the northwest. Export earnings from these two commodities have fallen by 20% due to the conflict in the English-speaking area, where a fifth of the total population lives. Moreover, an increase in unemployment and the shutting down of businesses has occurred. Human Rights Watch estimates nearly 300 Cameroonians have died since January 2020 in regions of concern, and over 1 million have experienced internal displacement. In such a context, foreign aid could be particularly beneficial, but things are not that simple.

The Challenges of Foreign Aid

Through time, Cameroon has received foreign aid from countries and institutions such as France, the United States and the World Bank. In September 2020, Cameroonian Foreign Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella asked for increased international cooperation in support of the country’s ongoing struggle against “terrorism.” Moreover, the UN OCHA has launched a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) that identified 3.9 million people in need. Estimates determined that the initiative would provide $320.7 million USD.

Despite some previous successes of foreign aid programs in Cameroon, challenges remain, especially in the context of the current Anglophone Crisis. Firstly, aid and humanitarian workers are highly at risk, which slows down their work. In January 2020, pro-independence fighters kidnapped seven aid workers from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation and the COMINSUD. Although they later released all staff, the abductions resulted in several organizations restricting their area of operations.

Secondly, cooperation with the government tends to be difficult sometimes. Indeed, Cameroonian authorities have publicly charged NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Think Tank International Crisis Group – among other organizations – of working to “destabilize state institutions.” Resistance also comes over concerns of aid distribution, as Cameroon ranks 152 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, and it ranks 166 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Good News and Solutions

Despite remaining challenges and perceptions, foreign aid has had some success in Cameroon in the past, which keeps some humanitarian workers optimistic, even during the Anglophone Crisis. Indeed, the poverty rate has dropped from 53% in 1996 to 37.5% in 2014. As many organizations continue to provide humanitarian aid to Cameroon, some experts remain optimistic that the living conditions of Cameroonians will continue to improve. The work of state and nonprofit actors continues to reap positive results, though the improvements cannot always occur easily. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the organizations providing support to the country.

To improve these good results, it appears important to address the different obstacles to the redistribution of foreign aid in Cameroon. For this purpose, both the state and civil society level initiate actions. Indeed, at the civil society level, international organizations such as the World Bank have developed a performance-based system – Country Policy and institutional Assessment – that allows the institution to evaluate the qualification of a country to receive aid while reducing the risks of corruption.

This kind of mechanism can be a standard for international NGOs providing financial assistance to Cameroon. At the state level, the Cameroonian government has made another step towards its decentralization process. Indeed, regional advisors have undergone recent election. Their role is to foster the development of their localities while remaining accountable to the people. These new authorities can increase transparency and can use their knowledge of the local dynamics to help humanitarian workers in the distribution of aid.

Jules Sombaye
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar
Ever since the International Federation of Association Football’s (FIFA) announcement that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, migrant flows to the country have exploded. Since 2010, Qatar has sought to bring thousands of workers to its shores in order to assist in the construction of stadiums, hotels and other infrastructure necessary to facilitate the tournament. To meet this demand, migrants from all over the Persian Gulf region, as well as South Asia, have flooded into the country. Migrants hoped to escape dire straits in order to find a stable job and a stable income. In fact, 700,000 workers came from India alone. However, migrant poverty in Qatar has become a significant issue.

Migrants in Qatar

According to Human Rights Watch, the migrant labor force has reached more than 2 million, making up approximately 95% of the labor force. However, despite being the second richest country in the world with a GDP per capita of $124,500 in 2017, a lack of labor rights has created widespread poverty in Qatar, especially among migrants.

The reason poverty persists among workers is the kafala sponsorship system. Migrants have to apply for visas from employers, often incurring costs through recruiters to do so. Even if workers do manage to pay enough to get access to a job, employers have broad controls over what workers can do. Employers often take passports from workers, preventing them from escaping brutal conditions. Additionally, some workers have gone with little to no pay. This has led to hundreds of thousands of people living in labor camps, where disease and poverty are rampant.

Solutions

In 2017 and 2018, Qatar’s government passed policies intended to reduce migrant poverty in Qatar. In October 2017, the government established a temporary minimum wage for migrant workers in the hopes of improving the conditions of laborers. One year later, in October 2018, Amnesty International reported that Qatar implemented a support and insurance fund in order to protect workers from lost wages.

However, Human Rights Watch has reported that both of these reforms were implemented unevenly, and thus have not had much of an effect. Employers still have a lot of control over workers, and poor enforcement has meant that the kafala structure is still in place.

On August 30, 2020, Qatar announced two new reforms in order to rectify this issue. The first was an increase in the existing minimum wage. The law will take effect in January 2021, and also requires employers to pay workers a stipend for food and housing. The second was a law to allow workers to leave their jobs without having express permission from their employers. This mobility could allow workers to escape dangerous conditions and find better work.

Such reforms could even save lives, as even the lowest estimates indicate that at least 1,200 people have died working on World Cup stadiums due to harsh conditions. International watchdogs have applauded these reforms. Amnesty International has argued that these small steps provide some hope that migrant poverty in Qatar, as well as worker exploitation, will soon be on the decline.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

Health and Human Rights of RefugeesOne of the most important factors in beating the coronavirus is ensuring that everybody has access to public health. According to The New Humanitarian, this has pushed numerous governments to double down on their efforts to protect the health and human rights of refugees, migrant workers and asylum seekers who may have not been able to afford access to these services pre-COVID.

In March as the worldwide outbreaks quadrupled and human rights organizations around the world urged governments the dangers the coronavirus would impose on refugees and asylum seekers. The World Health Organization, the UNHCR and several other organizations put out a joint press release that pressured governments to release migrants and undocumented individuals from immigration detention centers as well as include them in public health relief efforts. Here are three countries that have prioritized protecting the health and human rights of refugees during COVID-19. They show that these policies could be sustained even beyond the crisis.

Countries Protecting the Health and Human Rights of Refugees During COVID-19

  1. Italy: Italy has one of the highest infection rates with 238,159 confirmed cases and 34,514 deaths. Italy’s fields have also attracted migrant workers from Eastern Europe. On May 13, the Italian government passed an amnesty law allowing around 200,000 migrant workers and undocumented refugees to apply for healthcare and 6-month legal residency permits. The downside of this new step is that the bill only applies to agricultural workers, leaving out many of the workers in the informal sector who perform labor in construction or food services.
  2. Portugal: Migrants and asylum seekers in Portugal with applications that are still in process are now being granted early access to public services that include welfare, rental contracts, bank accounts and national health service. Claudia Veloso, the spokesperson for Portugal’s chapter of the Ministry of International Affairs, told Reuters that “people should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not been processed yet.”
  3. Brazil: Brazil has the highest rate of outbreaks second to the United States, and President Jair Bolsonaro has continuously dismissed the severity of the virus and failed to respond effectively to outbreaks. So, it has fallen to local community organizations, donors and local authorities to enforce these regulations and double down on the effort to get everybody treated. The Paraisópolis community group started running a quarantine center in partnership with health workers, NGOs and medical centers. The center has around 240 volunteers monitoring the health of at least 50 families at a time. It acquired sanitation supplies and personal protection equipment through crowdfunding. The group is providing food and medical aid to undocumented migrants.

Amnesty International stated that in order to fix the refugee crisis “the world urgently needs a new, global plan based on genuine international cooperation and a meaningful and fair sharing of responsibilities.” Policy experts are hopeful that these new policies will help governments to consider new possibilities for a more humane approach to helping displaced migrants and asylum seekers in the future. The health and human rights of refugees need to be protected.

Isabel Corp
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in QatarThough Qatar may be known for its gleaming skyline and booming business hub, there is notable income inequality that leads to downstream consequences, such as an explosion of homelessness within the nation. While perhaps the country evokes images of riches and wealth, the reality is not so for all those living and working within the country. Here are six facts about homelessness in Qatar that warrant everyone’s attention.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Qatar

  1. As a result of the economic boom during the last 40 years in this small nation in the Middle East, Qatar has gone on a massive building spree. To maintain this rapid pace of building, the country has relied primarily on migrant immigrants to help construct the city. These migrant workers have been subjected to repulsive conditions. Worse yet, the Qatari government could historically do more when it comes to basic human needs for these vulnerable, migrant workers.
  2. Many migrant workers, unable to afford accommodation, sleep at the construction sites in which they work. The companies that sponsor these migrant workers for construction projects in the city do not provide sufficient wages. Furthermore, these same employers do not provide any type of housing to support thousands of workers. Therefore, many migrant workers end up sleeping outside.
  3. An Amnesty International report on the construction of the future FIFA World Cup site in Qatar looked into the mistreatment of these migrant workers. Most notably, the report focused on migrant workers’ unfair treatment concerning housing securement. The report identified multiple individuals who were priced out of their affordable rental housing, due to their company delaying salary payments.
  4. Those who are homeless in Qatar face consequences from all angles of society. The government often views these workers as expendable — thrown into subjugated parts of society and subject to threats from criminals and police alike. These actors take advantage of the migrant workers already poor situation. Without proper living conditions, living on the streets can be quite difficult, especially if one lacks the required documentation and visas.
  5. The government of Qatar has been investing in improving labor conditions for workers. In addition, the government is addressing homelessness in Qatar, more broadly. Encampments like “Labour City,” funded by the State of Qatar’s private engineering office, is an area designed to house over 100,000 migrant workers. The new residences are significant improvements from previous accommodations. Some features of these new residences including access to the internet, green spaces and larger living areas — a far cry from a life on the streets.
  6. Private firms have also been investing in migrant laborers’ living conditions. Barwa Al Baraha, a subsidiary of a private property management business in Qatar, has built residences that can house up to 53,000 people in significantly improved living conditions.

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

While the nation of Qatar has experienced economic success in recent decades, there is no guarantee that the fruits of this success will be distributed equitably. In contrast, some marginalized and vulnerable populations (e.g., migrant workers) within Qatari society are at a higher risk of exploitation, simply due to their life circumstances. Through a concerted effort from both public and private initiatives, labor and living conditions for migrant workers are improving in Qatar and these efforts must continue.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons