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Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Underaged African Footballers Forced to Sign Contracts
According to a BBC investigation, this past February, 23 underage footballers from Africa were imported from their respective countries to play in Laos. The investigation claims that Champasak United, the club in question, had planned to develop the players and then capitalize on their sale or trade. IDSEA Champasak Asia African Football Academy is the unregistered academy partnered with the club in Laos. The players are mostly from Liberia, but also Sierra Leone and Ghana. Some of the players in question were even as young as 14 years old.

FIFA regulations restrict recruitment of players under 18 years old to clubs or academies.

Multiple players have reported that the work conditions were rigorous and their living quarters were overcrowded. Players stayed in dimly lit rooms and slept on old worn out mattresses.

One of the players, Kesselly Kamara of Liberia stated, “It’s hard to live in a place with no windows. It made sleeping very difficult, because you are thinking about your life.”

The faux contracts the players signed claimed to provide a monthly salary of $200, living accommodations and three meals per day. These provisions were not provided as frequently as promised or in most cases, not at all.

Pressure from FIFA released 17 of the players from their contracts. However, six players have decided to remain at the academy and take their chances.

Since Liberia does not have a football academy of their own, the young players were desperate to develop their skills. Often promised a celebrity status and financial riches, young players are eager to begin their careers and provide for their families. This is unfortunately the case in many African countries.

The former Captain of Champasak United, Alex Karmo, is a Liberian himself who has since left the club. From the perspective of a young Liberian player, the absence of their own academy coupled with the recruitment and promises of a fellow countrymen would make an easy decision. These agents can make anywhere between $3,000-10,000 per player.

It would, however, be a serious oversight to assume that this practice occurs only in these West African countries or on the African continent.

“Today we have criminal activists threatening world football and the young players, so it’s important to work together. Fifa will have to be on top of this battle,” says Jean-Claude Mbvounim. Mbvounim is the founder of “Foot Solidaire”, an anti-trafficking organization advocating for young players in Africa.

The organization estimates that as many as 15,000 young African footballers as young as ten years old are trafficked out of and within the continent. He states that one of the main difficulties is simply determining and distinguishing what is professional, amateur and recreational levels.

Foot Solidaire currently offers advocacy services to young players in Africa and is beginning to operate in the same function in France. It is planned to be known as the “European Network Foot Solidaire” and expand to other countries in Europe such as Spain, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Italy.

The efforts of his organization have certainly gained traction and publicity internationally. In April of last year, perennial powerhouse FC Barcelona was found by FIFA to have violated rules regarding players under 18 and were in turn sanctioned and fined. While the severity of cases involving underage players cannot always be compared, the fundamental principle of protecting the young footballers reigns paramount.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: BBC 1, Friday Magazine, BBC 2, Play the Game

Newly Formed "Sports & Rights Alliance" Advocacy Group-TBP
The Sports & Rights Alliance (SRA) is a newly formed coalition of NGO’s focused around preserving human rights in relation to global sporting events. The list of issues the SRA advocates for includes, but is not limited to: ending citizen displacement from sport infrastructure, imprisoning protesters, exploitation of workers, unethical bidding practices and environmental destruction.

The SRA is composed of various international NGO’s such as Amnesty International, FIFPro – World Players’ Union, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, Supporters Direct Europe, Greenpeace, Transparency International Germany and Terre des Hommes.

This past February, the SRA penned a letter to the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stressing an adherence to the principles regarding the 2020 and 2024 games. The approved standards mandated by the International Labor Organization was a point of emphasis in addition to increased oversight and inspections for human rights conditions. For the bidding process, the letter requested robust efforts to maintain and enforce ethical business and anti-corruption in choosing a host city.

The IOC met this past February in Brazil to discuss “Agenda 2020,” the strategic outline for the future of the Olympics, which was passed by the committee in December of 2014. The closing of bid registration for the 2024 Olympic games is set for September of 2015 so the timing is most appropriate.

Many recent international games have come under intense scrutiny for similar violations. Free speech issues and poor treatment of their LGBT community has cast many questions and doubts regarding Russia’s selection as 2018 World Cup host. The 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were tarnished due exploitation of workers, suppression of free speech and corruption. The SRA cites these as examples of a divergence from what international sport and competition should stand for and symbolize.

Additionally, the inaugural European Games are currently being held in Baku, Azerbaijan causing concern and objection throughout the continent. The country has a questionable human rights record and in recent months, government protesters, human rights advocates and international journalists have been detained and imprisoned on inflated charges. This causes great concern for the international community and for Europe in particular.

Another letter written to the President of the European Olympic Committee stressed the immediate and unconditional release of all current activists and journalists who are imprisoned. Furthermore, the letter called for an end to ongoing intimidations, detainments and persecutions of the aforementioned individuals.

FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host has also been met with serious concern and criticism. In lieu of a pre-existing Football infrastructure, the country has relied upon migrant laborers to build multiple stadiums to host the Cup. This arrangement of labor is common throughout the Arabic Peninsula and known as the “kafala” system and is likened to modern day slavery.

FIFA has been inconsistent in their actions to condemn working conditions. The organization has stated their concern for the workers welfare, but also deny responsibility for their treatment. Referring to the government contractors, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, is quoted as saying “they are responsible for their workers.”

Before the FIFA Presidency election, the SRA wrote to President Sepp Blatter and his three opponents citing their grave concern for the condition of the workers. The letter included a questionnaire about their views on the current state of human rights in their sport. It also called for the victor in the election to take action to rectify any violations in the first 100 days of their presidency.

The SRA has proven to quickly become a powerful voice in international sports relations and gathered a following through their advocate efforts. Regarding the allegiance to human rights principles, the SRA have consistently ended their letters by saying, “All these standards should not be based on goodwill, but must be non-negotiable and absolutely binding for all stakeholders.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: The Globe And Mail, Human Rights Watch 1, Human Rights Watch 2, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

FIFA-Qatar-Kafala-System
The recent scandal surrounding corruption at FIFA has made headlines around the world. But could it affect the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

That remained in question Friday as FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter as its president. The election comes on the heels of a massive corruption investigation involving the top brass of soccer’s governing body. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 of the organization’s executives on dozens of separate charges this week. They are accused of “brazen corruption” in their dealings with sports marketing companies which generate billions for the organization.

FIFA is also accused of dishonesty in its selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it would investigate “criminal mismanagement and money laundering” suspected to have taken place during the bidding process.

Though both selections raised eyebrows among soccer fans, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be the most controversial. The Gulf state has been widely accused of human rights abuses in its preparation for the event.

Migrant laborers seeking work in Qatar submit to a labor scheme, known as the kafala system, through which host companies “sponsor” foreign laborers. Upon arrival, many workers find their documentation confiscated and their rights severely limited. They sometimes work twelve hour days, seven days a week.

According to the International Labor Organization, the scheme is tantamount to slavery. An investigation by The Guardian found Nepalese workers in Qatar were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014. Documents produced by that report list worker deaths caused by crushing and electrocution.

Without documentation papers, workers are prevented from ever leaving. Employers also withhold pay to suppress dissent.

Migrant workers play an enormous role in the economy of Qatar. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born and 99 percent of the private sector is foreign. Though human rights organizations and governments have complained, little has been done to address these issues.

Much of the work being conducted in this manner is in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, with contractors using the cheap labor to build facilities for the event.

If the current FIFA crisis continues, it will almost certainly jeopardize Qatar’s hosting opportunity. Sponsors have already begun to re-evaluate their relations with the organization and it is likely many will drop out.

As for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Blatter received a stamp of approval from another controversial president: Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Putin said the investigation was an attempt to thwart Blatter’s re-election. The Russian leader, who was a champion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the investigation “a grave violation of principles of international organization.”

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Department of Justice, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Swiss Attorney General
Photo: Zee News

 

world cup
Destitute life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro has changed very little over the years. The streets may be currently adorned in green and yellow, but the quality of life continues to be the same.

1. The Most Expensive World Cup in History

The projected cost for hosting the games is more than $11 billion, which makes it the most expensive World Cup since it began 84 years ago. Citizens are complaining that the government of Brazil is spending so much money on the World Cup while many of its citizens are living in poverty. Paying for this World Cup has come out of these citizens’ taxpayer dollars.

2. Spent Billions of Dollars; Are There More Important Endeavors?

The money that was spent on the World Cup, on structures like stadiums and other sporting infrastructure, takes away from money that could have been spent on basic needs that many Brazilian citizens lack, such as education, better health care and adequate housing.

3. Corruption in the Brazilian Government and FIFA

The Brazilian government has been accused of overspending and corruption. The cost of building the Mane Garrincha Stadium came out to be $900 million, triple the original amount, largely due to fraud and corruption. FIFA, which has always been known for corruption, will be gaining all profits from the World Cup, while Brazil is paying the costs. The gains will not go to the people who really need it in Brazil, even though the Brazilian government has spent so much money on the World Cup. Many Brazilians can’t afford tickets to the games, or even afford to travel to protests against the World Cup, while their taxpayer dollars have gone towars paying for the World Cup.

4. Providing More Business For Sex Tourism

Sex tourism is encouraged in Brazil, and hotels and taxis are even part of the network that links clients with women and young girls. In Recife, one of the World Cup sites and also one of the poorest parts of Brazil, 120,000 soccer tickets were sold to foreigners. The women and young girls know that foreigners coming have a lot of money and “they come to Brazil to have fun.” A handful of sex workers have even taken English classes in order to negotiate better. The World Cup was originally sold to Brazilians as an economic boost because of the rewards of greater tourism. Unfortunately, one of the facets of tourism in Brazil is the sex industry, and this increase in tourism is perpetuating the sad cycle of abuse in the industry.

5. Encouraging Child Exploitation

Sadly, the sex industry in Brazil exploits children as well. Recife has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to child exploitation. In Sao Lourenço, where the Recife stadium is located, some of the street vendors not only sell food, but also their children for sexual exploitation. Child exploitation is so out of control in Brazil that officials are worried that tourists coming to Brazil for the World Cup will not respect their legislation on sex tourism.

— Colleen Moore

Sources: A.V. Club, WNCN, CBC, Philly.com, CNBC
Photo: Forbes

kafala system
Exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar has become an increasingly pressing issue since the implementation of the Kafala labor system. The Kafala system requires migrant workers to have a sponsor, usually their employee, to monitor their work and to control their visa and legal status. These sponsors, however, often prevent their laborers from moving jobs and have been known to either underpay or deny their employees pay.

Many workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal have been attracted by false promises from Qatari employers, but once contractually committed, they cannot leave the country without the permission of their sponsor.

Reporters from The Guardian ventured to some of these labor camps west of Doha and met 25-year-old Ujjwal Thapa from Nepal. He came to Qatar to work in order to send money back to his family, but had not been paid for months. His employer has his passport so he cannot leave, and upon his arrival, his family was required to take out a loan of 660 pounds from a private lender that has an interest rate of 48 percent per year.

Question as to whether Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been a topic of concern due to these human trafficking issues. In their report on human trafficking, the U.S. state department wrote that, “initial consent of a construction worker to accept hard work in a harsh environment does not waive his or her right to work free of abuse. When an employer or laborer recruiter deceives a worker about the terms of employment, withholds their passports, holds them in brutal conditions and exploits their labor, the workers are victims of trafficking.”

Eight to 12 stadiums would need to be built for the 2022 games, and although the Qatar organizing committee reported that no one had died yet building the stadiums, that is only due to the fact that the true building process has not yet begun. Between 2012 and 2013, 450 Indian laborers died and 184 Nepali workers have died in the past year.

General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, predicts that if the Kafala system does not change, 4,000 workers will lose their lives in preparation for the 2022 world cup.

The U.S. State Department is looking to end this system by May of 2015, and in their report on human trafficking, they noted that Qatar has promised to reform these unjust labor practices. Although no serious changes have been made to improve the labor system, Burrow believes that the Qatari government will change the system if refusing to change will deny them the chance to host the World Cup in 2022.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, BusinessWeek, New York Times
Photo: DohaNews

While the world looks at Brazil in excitement for the FIFA World Cup, national dissatisfaction persists among many of its citizens. People from all walks of life are taking part in demonstrations, strikes and riots to have their voices heard.

The protesters had several specific issues they want dealt with but were able to agree that the common factor amongst their concerns was rooted in the economics of hosting the tournament. Many believe Brazil should not be hosting the World Cup when its economy is too weak to uphold the country’s needs.

Citizens’ discontent regarding the decision to host was made clear at the Confederations Cup (a World Cup “dress rehearsal”) in 2013, at which over a million people protested in dozens of Brazilian cities to demand better public services.

Since then, protests have increased in number and severity, with many being organized by unions, leftist parties and activist groups. In the weeks leading up to the opening games, police, teachers, bus drivers and bank security guards have gone on strike due to World Cup related issues.

On May 26, protesters surrounded the World Cup squad’s hotel and later the squad’s bus when en route to a training camp. The protesters chanted things like “There will be no World Cup, there will be a strike” and placed stickers on the team’s bus.

On May 27, about 1,500 people were part of a demonstration that blocked one of the main roads near the National Stadium. Once the police intervened, the streets were filled with a variety of people, including cops on horseback, indigenous leaders with bows and arrows and dissatisfied teachers. A popular chant was “Who is the cup for? Not us! I don’t want the Cup, I want money for health and education.”

Groups of educators have been on strike since May 12, believing that the $11 million budget for the month-long tournament should be allotted to more worthy causes, such as education for the children or better working conditions and pay raises for the teachers.

Recently, the indigenous population of Brazil has decided to use the protests to bring light to their problems. Around 100 ethnic groups joined in the demonstrations to fight for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. They have accused President Dilma Rousseff’s government of stalling the demarcation of their ancestral lands in order to pursue large-scale farming.

The protests are not expected to let up any time soon, so the government is increasing the police force and security, with 157,000 soldiers and police dedicated to maintaining order during the tournament. The added security has caused additional economic controversy, with the civilian police force requesting an 80 percent pay raise during the World Cup.

Brazilian soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo expressed that citizens should not blame the country’s problems on the World Cup when they existed beforehand:

“This is what people should understand: it’s down to governments. The governments they have elected. It’s nothing to do with football or the World Cup.”

A slightly different angle is expressed by Eric Cantona, former soccer player, stating that he believes the protests will continue despite FIFA executive committee vice president Michel Plantini’s requests, but that “people just need to be heard, and they will be heard thanks to the World Cup.”

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: Daily Mail, ESPN FC, BBC 1, BBC 2
Photo: Sports Illustrated

brazil_world_Cup
No one truly can deny the universal appeal of soccer throughout the world. Kevin Alavy, a sports analyst at Futures Sports + Entertainments quaintly stated that the innate popularity of the sport comes “down to its simplicity,” allowing to it reach from metropolitan England to poorer, rural nations such as Uganda.

Since the birth of FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the organization had worked tirelessly to bringing soccer into the forefront of worldwide sports, creating the FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930.

Brazil received the honor to host the 2014 World Cup, and has made huge strides to build the immense stadiums and prepare the nations for the millions of people who will be attending the event.

Despite the frenzy behind hosting this popular world event, Brazil’s economic and political issues have come to the forefront. Brazilian citizens have rallied together against increasing taxes, political corruption, the lack of essential resources, and the use of public funds to finance the World Cup.

Despite the bad press, Brazil has been heralded as a member of BRICS, comprised of the nations “Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.” These nations have shown a massive growth of a vibrant middle class, with over 40 million people escaping poverty.

The new lifestyle  of the  Brazilian middle class has brought new luxuries such as cars, cell phones, and better homes. In spite of these developments, an assortment of problems such as the lack of an educational system, lack of basic heath needs, rising prices for public transportation and poor sanitation have became hot topic issues.  Walter Salles, noted Brazilian film director, condemned the amount of public spending used for the World Cup. He argued that Brazil spent “twice as much” on “constructing stadiums for the World Cup” than on “basic sanitation.”

Brazilian officials have argued that this is not the case, stating the “18.1% of government expenditure” is used on education, a major issue the protesters are railing for. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has argued that despite these improvements, public education has barely improved, with only 77% of students age 15-19 being enrolled as full-time students.

“Nao vai ter Copa” or “There will not be a World Cup” is now an immensely popular slogan for the impoverished people of Brazil. The World Cup proved to be one of the major catalysts that pushed the populace to protest against the government’s mishandling of the economy.

Other protesters, such as lawyer Bruno Boaventura, argue that the real issue lies in the public not having a voice in regards to an event involving tax-payer money, stating the public was not “involved in any of the decisions.”  Over 30 billion reis, or 13 billion USD, is being spent on the event.

Brazilian officials, as well as FIFA, have both argued the World Cup spending will be beneficial to the Brazilian economy, arguing that Brazil is bound to gain 112.8 Billion Reais, or $52 billion US dollars from hosting the world cup. Protesters feel like they should have been a part of decisions in regards to their tax payer money. The only thing they both can agree on that this is a contentious issue that needs be resolved before the World Cup begins on June 12, 2014.

Joseph Abay

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, ESPN, USA Today, Forbes, CNN, Soccer Lens, Huffington Post, Bleacher Report, The Guardian
Photo: DW

FIFA
In the last several years Brazil has made major efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 16.4% in 1995 to 4.7% in 2009. Nonetheless, there are still 10 million Brazilians who live in extreme poverty. Protests have thus broken out over the heavy spending on new soccer stadiums in preparation for the FIFA World Cup.

Over a million people took to the streets to protest inequality within the country. The protesters’ main concern is government is major expenditures, in the billions, directed for new and refurbished stadiums for upcoming World Cup and Olympics. The protestors are demanding that the money instead be spent on schools, hospitals, and better public transportation.

When more than 50,000 people came together on Thursday the 27th, 90 people were injured in a barrage of rubber bullets and teargas. Their goal was to reach the stadium in Fortaleza where Spain was playing Italy in the Confederation Cup, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Brazil has a history of violent oppression and the police attacks during the recent upheaval have certainly touched a nerve.

The President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, responded to the protests saying, “I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard. Brazil asked to host the World Cup. We didn’t force it on them.” FIFA is expecting to make record profits from advertising and broadcasting. Money that will not benefit the Brazilian people.

Marcos Nobre, a political philosophy professor at the University of Campinas and author of a new e-book on the revolt, was interviewed by Reuters about the recent protests. He said, “The streets are saying to the politicians: you have heard our voices, now let’s see what you will do with this.”

Nobre also claims that the demonstrations are far from over. The people will have to keep fighting if they want any real change to take place. Even with numerous economic successes, Brazil is still a country plagued by poverty. The residents only ask they receive the attention and assistance of the government before they start spending large quantities of money on mega-events.

– Chelsea Evans
Source: Inequality Watch, Reuters
Photo: Reuters