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Migrant Workers in QatarWhen 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

Most Common Diseases in QatarEven the richest country in the world has diseases that do not seem to be going away. Qatar a Middle Eastern nation that borders Saudi Arabia. This prosperous country had a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $66,415.30 in 2016. For comparison, the United States had a GDP per capita of $52,194.90. Even so, there are still health concerns that are not diminishing. Here are five of the most common diseases in Qatar.

Diabetes

In 2013, the Action on Diabetes (AOD) initiative provided people in Qatar with a free diabetes test. There was a concern about high blood sugar in the adult population, and the speculations were justified. The tests found that about 16 percent of the adult population has diabetes. This common disease is an issue that demands action. In the AOD test, 86 percent of the people who discovered they had diabetes were unaware of their blood-sugar problem, according to the Gulf Times.

Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease was the number one killer of people in 2005, but it has since moved to the number two spot. Science Daily explains that “ischaemia means a ‘reduced blood supply,’” so this heart disease occurs when the blood supply to the heart is low. This common disease in Qatar can be prevented by regular exercise, a healthy diet and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure.

Diarrhea

Although diarrheal diseases have been decreasing since 1990, cases still occur and cause other issues, sometimes resulting in death. Intestinal issues can be caused by diarrhea, killing 1.4 out of 100,000 people annually. With the help of advanced medicine, awareness of eating healthy and improved water quality, the incidence of diarrhea will continue to drop.

Respiratory Problems

In Doha, the capital of Qatar, there is very poor air quality, which is causing respiratory issues. Difficulty breathing and coughing, lung infection and other respiratory diseases are prominent in the city. Although not many people have been fatally affected by the air pollution thus far, Doha News estimates that more people will contract diseases and die,if the air quality is not addressed. Even natives are “unclear [as to] why Qatar’s high pollution levels don’t correlate to high levels of early death and/or disease.”

Cancer

Similar to the United States, cancer is a big threat to residents. The three most common types of cancer are cancer of the respiratory system, breast cancer and liver cancer. These three diseases “[make] up 36.4% of all deaths from cancer in Qatar.” Researchers and organizations in Qatar are working hard to promote cancer awareness and prevention for the future. The National Cancer Strategy has laid out a plan for awareness and hopefully advances in medicine so less patients have to travel abroad for treatment. Many people are working to eliminate cancer from among the most common diseases in Qatar.

A wealthy nation is not a perfect one, and Qatar is an example of a developed nation with its own struggles. However, with enough medical research, health education and environmental consciousness, these diseases in Qatar will continue to become less common.

Sydney Missigman

World's Richest Country

There are many different ways to measure the wealth of a nation, and depending on methodology, answers may vary as to what is the world’s richest country. Since the U.S. has the highest GDP of all nations, at a considerable $18.56 trillion, it is a strong contender, along with China.

However, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank, in 2016, the world’s richest country also happens to be one of the smallest: Qatar, which is located on the northeastern side of the Arabian peninsula. Qatar has the highest gross domestic product at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita, meaning the nation’s GDP is the largest relative to population and the strength of the currency. Under this measurement, the U.S. lags between ninth and thirteenth place.

With a land mass of less than 12,000 square kilometers and a population of 2.7 million people, Qatar boasts an average income of $129,000. Qatar’s success stems from gas and oil reserves, as is the case with other wealthy nations such as Norway. Qatar’s natural gas reserves are third largest in the world, trumped only by Russia and Iran. For this reason, 91 percent of the nation’s GDP stems from trade, primarily involving oil, and more than 50 percent of the government’s revenue can be attributed to the fuel sector. In 2016, Qatar sold $9 billion in bonds, the largest Middle East bond issue in history.

With no income tax, Qatar lures wealthy immigrants and expats and continues to grow in both population and wealth. The nation’s success has gained global attention; Qatar was selected to host the soccer world cup in 2022. In response, the government has recently initiated many large infrastructure projects, including sports stadiums and an upgraded light-rail transportation system.

Despite owning such vast wealth, Qatar is often criticized for being behind on education, refusing to acknowledge women’s rights and having affiliations with radical Islam. There exists a significant disparity in the quality of life between the rich and the poor classes, and infrastructure is limited in poorer regions. Ironically, even the world’s richest country must continue to focus on developing and improving the overall quality of life for citizens.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr


The water quality in Qatar is improving, and experts say that both the tap and bottled water is usually safe to drink. However, those who live in the country should be cautious with imported water.

According to the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, or QEERI, tap and bottled water in Qatar is “very safe to drink.” The organization conducted a study looking at 113 samples of tap water and 62 samples of bottled water with favorable.

Based on QEERI’s findings, the water quality in Qatar complies with guidelines set by both the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

QEERI confirmed that the water did not contain dangerous levels of contaminants, such as lead and arsenic, which can affect the taste and smell of the water in addition to causing health problems.

Nora Kuiper, a leading researcher for the project, said that the quality of water in Qatar is superior, contrary to any preconceived notions that residents might have.

“The quality of Qatar’s drinking water is very high, higher than many local consumers think,” Kuiper said.

Candace Rowell, another researcher for this project, said that the most important outcome of the study was finding that tap and bottled water are comparably safe.

“The real takeaway message is that tap water in the country is just as safe as bottled water, either locally produced or imported brands,” Rowell said.

The main concern that the study addressed was that imported water was not always up to standards. According to QEERI, some samples of imported water showed higher concentrations of contaminants, such as arsenic.

According to Doha News, researchers have expressed concerns regarding the mineral content and how this affects the water quality in Qatar. The study found that while water is typically free from harmful chemicals and bacteria, it can lack vital minerals. According to this article, at least 50 percent of Qatar’s water supply requires extensive salt removal due to the country’s limited access to fresh water.

Jerome Nriagu, a professor emeritus at the School of Public Health and Research and the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan said that this “synthetic” water lacks essential minerals.

“By constantly drinking water with low potassium and magnesium, you increase the risk of getting obesity and hypertension, and [certain] metabolic disorders,” Nriagu said.

Nriagu said that it would be beneficial for officials to add essential minerals to better the water quality in Qatar.

“We’re not getting enough from our foods to start with, and now drinking [this type of] water compounds the problem,” Nriagu said.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr


As the war in the Middle East rages on, many people are forced to leave their homes due to violence and intolerance. As a result, millions of people from the Middle East are seeking refuge. Qatar, home to 2.7 million people, is a peninsular Arab country located on the Persian Gulf. Many Syrian refugees have tried to flee to Qatar but are unable to do so. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Qatar:

  1. A refugee is someone forced to leave their country to escape a disaster.
  2. Despite being an extraordinarily wealthy country, Qatar has resettled no refugees.
  3. Many Gulf countries, including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have also turned down Syrian refugees.
  4. There are more than 13.5 million people in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Five million Syrian refugees currently live inTurkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
  5. Qatar has earned vocal criticism for its refusal to accept refugees.
  6. Why are there no refugees in Qatar? Many experts blame visa restrictions, which make it difficult for Syrians to enter countries along the Gulf.
  7. Officials from Qatar defend the country by pointing out that their country donates millions of dollars to the United Nations to help refugees.
  8. In an exclusive interview, Qatari Foreign Minister Dr. Khalid Al-Attiyah further defended Qatar. He stated, “The state of Qatar is in no way falling short in its responsibilities when it comes to the Syrian crisis.” He reminded people that Qatar has launched many programs to help Syrian refugees, including humanitarian, economic and diplomatic initiatives.
  9. This is true, as seen in an initiative by Qatar back in 2012. In partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,  Sheikha Moza, a member of Qatar’s royal family, launched a $12 million education program that will help dozens of countries fund schooling for 172,000 refugee children.
  10. Despite Qatar’s financial aid, many experts believe Qatar must do more. The U.N. has requested that all developed nations open their borders to refugees, including Qatar.

Overall, Qatar’s response to the refugee crisis is quite controversial. Qatar has donated millions of dollars to help refugees, but it has yet to accept any refugees into its own borders. The hope for the future is that there will be more opportunities for Syrian refugees in Qatar.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Richest-Country-in-World-Qatar
With an alphabet soup of measurements available to analyze global wealth, identifying the world’s richest country becomes a confusing task. Perhaps the most prevalent method used to assess the relative wealth of nations is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita; in other words, a country’s GDP divided by the number of people living in that country.

If we accept this statistic as the most useful in discussing a nation’s overall prosperity, then the richest country in the world is one smaller than the state of Connecticut: the oil-rich nation of Qatar. Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, estimated to be $105,091 in 2013 and likely on the rise.

Independent since 1971, Qatar is home to 1.4 million residents, of whom only 15 percent are actually citizens. The rest are foreign workers – Western financiers, energy executives, temporary laborers from India, etc. This makes Qatar’s exact population difficult to calculate as it is in constant flux. The U.N. estimates that 500 new immigrants arrive every day. Only 1.5 percent of the population is over the age of 65, and there are nearly two males to every female. It goes without saying that living in the world’s richest country comes with extensive benefits; the people of Qatar enjoy free electricity and free healthcare, among other perks.

Qatar’s capital city of Doha is regarded as exceedingly opulent, and its luxury is often compared to that of Dubai. The major difference between Doha and Dubai, however, is that Dubai is finished. Qatar remains a country in transition. The country’s leaders look to the future, purporting a “2030 vision” that pledges a world-class infrastructure, a large part of which is an extensive metro network that recently had its ground-breaking ceremony. In 2022, Qatar will be the host of the World Cup, the pageantry of which will likely reflect the country’s progress.

To put the GDP per capita of Qatar in perspective, the 2013 estimate for the same statistic in the U.S. was $51,248. At the complete other end of the spectrum is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose GDP per capita was estimated to be a meager $394.

Not everyone in Qatar is bathing in gold, however. The country’s economic prosperity is marked by a vast income gap between the very rich and the very poor. The head of the Al Thani ruling family, Sheikh Hamad, is worth $2 billion himself, but the richest Qataris like the Sheikh make over 13 times what the poorest do.

This statistic comes from a measure known as the GINI Index, a commonly used method of assessing income inequality. One might argue that this measure is more reflective of a country’s overall wealth because it takes into account income distribution – GDP per capita oversimplifies the issue. Others might suggest that a country’s overall GDP is the most useful in identifying the richest countries in the world. The answer to the question of world’s richest country changes depending on what statistic is employed.

Perhaps most important, what the GINI Index suggests in comparison to GDP per capita is that even in the world’s statistically richest countries, there are people in poverty whose struggle cannot be disguised by a vague number.

– Katie Pickle

Sources: It’s GR9, Global Finance
Photo: Conferenza GNL

FIFA
Qatar has an estimated budget of 62 billion pounds for the hotels, infrastructure, stadiums and other buildings that it needs for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has relied on migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to complete these building projects. However, the work for migrant workers is extremely difficult and many are dying, most likely as a consequence of the harsh conditions that they are forced to live and work in.

Since 2013, Qatar has been under investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, who are worried that Qatar’s migrant workforce is being treated as modern-day slaves. According to a 2013 report from the Guardian, over 4,000 workers will die as a result of the conditions that they are subjected to while they prepare for the World Cup. From June 4 to August 8 in the same year, 44 Nepalese workers died, and half of those deaths were related to heart failure or workplace accidents.

Heart failure and heat strokes are common, since many workers are forced to slave away in extremely hot temperatures—up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit—and are sometimes not given access to free drinking water. This has led to many complaints from workers. More than 80 workers from India died from January to May 2013, and 1,460 complained to the embassy about problems related to labor conditions.

While it may seem like the best solution is for workers to go home, unfortunately, it is not that simple. Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have instituted the kafala system—a system of sponsorship in which migrant workers are not allowed to change jobs or leave the country without a sponsor’s permission. Many sponsors hold the passports of migrant workers, making it impossible for them to leave. Workers are also often jilted out of the money that they were promised, and contracts are sometimes in English or other languages foreign to migrant workers, meaning that workers are forced to sign contracts that they do not understand.

Qatar promised that they would reform the kafala system after the deaths of migrant workers were bought to light. However, as The Guardian states, the system that Qatar plans to replace the kafala with will still ensure that employees are tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which can last for as long as five years.

An estimated 1,200 workers have died since Qatar began to construct its stadiums for the World Cup. However, this week, Qatar’s state news agency has issued a statement claiming that no workers have died during construction for the World Cup. They claim that no workers died while at work, and therefore argue that the assumption that the deaths of migrant workers are work related, is incorrect.

While it is most likely true that not all the deaths of migrant workers are work related, the fact remains that many of the deaths probably are a result of the poor living and working conditions that migrants are forced to face. Qatar is also hesitant to let reporters research the conditions of migrant workers in the country. In May of 2015, they arrested a group of BBC reporters who attempted to do so.

The problems with workers for the FIFA World Cup are representative of larger socioeconomic problems in Qatar. Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. Its growing industry and infrastructure attract migrant workers determined to improve their living conditions by moving to such a rich country. However, migrant workers are treated extremely poorly. They are crammed into overcrowded living conditions of six to eight men in a room, and up to 40 men have to share a kitchen. The living conditions are unhygienic and bathrooms and washers are so dirty that some men are forced to use buckets of water to wash instead.

There are over 1.2 million migrant workers making up the workforce in Qatar. These workers are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. It is especially difficult for migrant workers who work in domestic situations. As the Human Rights Watch states, these workers are normally women, and they are especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as they are sometimes locked in the homes where they work and are not given protection under Qatari Labor Law.

The poor treatment of migrant workers might be an attempt by Qatar to keep its population under control. After all, over 80 percent of the Qatari population is now composed of migrant workers, meaning that 20 percent of the population actually benefits from the riches of Qatar, while the rest are forced to suffer. As one Nepalese migrant worker states, “No one respects our feelings, we are just labor, all people hate us.” Unless Qatar changes its laws and issues drastic reforms, it risks becoming a country where modern day slavery becomes more and more prevalent, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

— Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, BBC, BBC, Business Insider, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Migration News, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: The Telegraph

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

Slavery in qatar
When many people think about the term “slavery,” they may reflect on it as a historical institution of the imperial powers of the West. They may even erroneously deem slavery as a decrepit artifact of the past. However, although many history textbooks tend to portray slavery as strictly a practice of the colonial and imperial past, this horrendous institution remains extant throughout many parts of the modern world, Qatar being one of them.

The very same countries that are thought of as exotic vacation hot-spots may also be teeming with covert slave trades. After all, since only a handful of nations are as developed and as advanced as the Western world, some of these less-developed nations rely on slave networks to buttress their nascent economies. For instance, the blistering topic of an emerging controversy unveiled by an investigation by The Guardian, slavery in Qatar has captured media attention because Qatar has purportedly used slave labor in its endeavors to prepare for World Cup 2022.

One may find it ironic that intense mistreatment can exist in a country whose population is composed primarily of migrant workers, however, it is an undeniable reality for many laborers in Qatar. Among Qatar’s two million residents, a paltry 225,000 are natural citizens with the rest of the populace primarily comprised of South Asian migrant workers. These workers hail from less-developed nations such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Qatari officials view the World Cup 2022 as a ceremony in which not only the classic sport of soccer is honored, but also in which cultural relations can be repaired. To prepare for the ceremony, Qatar is investing a reported $100 billion on infrastructure in addition to another $20 billion toward renovating roads and constructing new roads and stadiums. However, behind the glimmering windows and cascading high-rises lurks the masked scandal of slave labor.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation, approximately 4,000 South Asian workers will perish before the festivities of the World Cup 2022 even begin. Furthermore, an investigation by The Guardian unearthed shocking maltreatment of Nepalese laborers who have to endure conditions such as lack of water, food, payment and legal identification. With such horrific conditions, one may wonder how these laborers would ever agree to work for such exploitative employers. However, these unsuspecting migrant workers, eager to earn money and support their starving families, are often tricked into signing false contracts. For instance, workers are given one contract before arriving to Qatar, but upon arrival, they are given a second, demeaning contract. When news broke of the slave-like treatment of migrant workers, there was subsequent backlash.

In order to mitigate subsequent backlash, Qatar officials stated that they would replace the present kafala system with a more democratic system. The kafala system is a sponsorship system in which workers are bound to an all-powerful and oftentimes boundless employer. In a statement issued by the human rights director of the Qatari interior ministry, Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi, the Colonel professes that “We are going to abolish the kafala system and it will move to the legislative institutions… It will be replaced by a contractual relationship between employer and employee.”

Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi also proposes to modify this system by facilitating workers’ ability to obtain exit visas in order to leave their sponsor in the event of mistreatment or simply just a desire to seek other employment. A substantial portion of these reforms are based on advice from DLA Piper, a London law firm that had been mandated with the task of reviewing the implementation of revised labor laws in Qatar. For instance, DLA Piper proposed that a sponsor would be required to show substantial and viable proof supporting his or her objection to permitting a worker to terminate their labor services. Other reform proposals include implementing sanctions against inadequate employers and engendering a more closely-working relationship between the workers’ home countries and their host country.

Although the proposals by DLA may point to an easy resolution, the chances of Qatar following through on these orders is a topic of question and doubt. One major concern from Amnesty International is that although Qatar proposes modifications to the kafala system, all reforms must ultimately be verified and approved by the shura, or advisory council, that legislates many Emirate nations. According to Amnesty International, the shura is expected to strongly oppose the aforementioned proposed changes to the long-standing kafala system due to feared economic consequences.

For instance, Nicholas McGeehan, an activist from Human Rights Watch, voiced his concern by blatantly stating, “The notion that the kafala system can be abolished by no longer referring to a sponsor but an employer-employee relationship is utterly preposterous.” McGeehan’s statement captures the concern that many proponents of reform in Qatar face.

Is the government going to implement adequate change or attempt to shroud the issue with a simple name change?

– Phoebe Pradhan

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

 

Migrant Workers in Qatar
The skyline of Qatar’s capital, Doha, showcases gargantuan skyscrapers towering high into the sky. Being the site of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is pursuing extensive infrastructure projects to prepare for the massive influx of rabid soccer fans eager to cheer on their favorite team.

Much of the infrastructure projects that are underway rely on migrant workers for completion. In recent months, several stories have broken regarding the terrible working conditions these workers face. Some assert that the working conditions are so bad it amounts to forced labor.

Many of these migrant workers hail from a variety of countries but the majority tend to be Nepalese. Facing poverty at home, they venture outside their borders, via recruiting agencies, in order to provide for their families.

Abigail Hauslohner, details the process by which these migrant workers become the victims of an international forced labor scheme in a recent Washington Post article. Many workers must pay recruitment agencies hundreds or even thousands of dollars to secure a job out of the country. Once the journey is made, workers claim their IDs and passports are confiscated upon arrival, making them illegal aliens.

The Guardian reports that many workers accrue massive loans to the recruitment agencies that, due to the lack of payment for their hard work, they are unable to repay. Some of the loans are reported to have interest rates of up to 36%.

The working conditions that many encounter on a day to day basis are deadly. This past summer, it was reported that an average of one Nepalese worker died per day. Over half died from heart attacks associated with heatstroke. The Nepalese embassy stationed in Doha has reported that 44 workers died between June 4 through August 8.

Lacking payment for their work, some workers are growing hungry, reports Amnesty International. 80 workers have revealed they have not been paid for over a year. The company employing them has recently ceased a monthly food stipend of 250 riyals, amounting to just $69. Luckily, a group of Doha residents have taken notice of their situation and began donating food to help.

Facing large debt, possessing no form of identification and an inability to leave the workplace has placed these migrant workers in a dire situation. Holding illegal alien status, without any way to recover their identification, leaves them with no legal protection under Qatari law. They are trapped in a cycle of forced labor.

Some hold out hope that the eventual 2022 World Cup will force a change. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee in charge of preparing for the games states they have taken notice of the problem. The committee insists they will introduce measures to improve labor standards.

Nasser al-Khater, spokesman for the committee, has stated they are in the midst of developing worker welfare standards that come into compliance with international best practices. Contractors will be forced to comply with these standards.

The dichotomy present in the richest per capita country in the world is stark. Qatari citizens enjoy free healthcare, education and electricity while the towering infrastructure is erected by migrant workers suffering under the injustice of forced labor.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, Amnesty International
Photo: Vintage 3D