The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is quickly becoming one of the darkest World Cups in history- and it’s still 8 years away. So why such a harsh judgment already? Let me catch you up.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) examines work conditions in countries across the world. They recently released their report on the conditions in Qatar, who will be hosting the 2022 World Cup (we’ll get to how that happened later). Their report starts off with this:
“Qatar is a country without a conscience.”
Approximately 1.4 million migrant workers have traveled to Qatar looking to find work building the stadiums and infrastructure necessary for the World Cup. What most of them have found is more of a nightmare.
To really grasp the situation, it is important to understand Qatar’s tradition of “kafala law” system. This system basically makes migrant workers into indentured servants but putting them fully at the mercy of their employers. Many migrant workers are forced to hand over their passports to their employers, making it virtually impossible to leave the country or even that employer.
The working conditions they find themselves in are truly horrendous. The ITUC report estimated that before all is said and done, close to 4,000 migrant workers will have died building infrastructure for the Cup. These numbers are based on the last few years:
191 Nepalese workers died in 2013 working in Qatar compared with 169 in 2012 based on Nepal Government figures. 400 Nepalese workers have died since 2010 when Qatar won the right to host the World Cup.
218 Indian nationals died in 2013 working in Qatar according to figures form the Indian Embassy in Qatar. 237 workers died in 2012 and 239 in 2011. On average, about 20 Indian migrants died per month in 2013, peaking at 27 in the hottest month, August.
The ITUC talked with lots of different workers involved in the World Cup project about their work conditions. Here are some excerpts. From a construction manager:
“I went on site this morning at 5:00 a.m. and there was blood everywhere. I don’t know what happened, but it was covered up with no report. When I reported this, I was told that if I didn’t stop complaining, I would be dismissed.”
From a cleaner:
When I first arrived in Qatar, my living conditions were horrible. For three months, I and 15 others who arrived together were forced to sleep on the floor on thin mattresses. We complained to the Qatar National Human Rights Committee about this and were moved into another accommodation. But even now eight people share one bedroom, 16 people share a bathroom and 35 people share a kitchen.
From a construction worker:
“Our contract expired, yet the employer has not paid our salaries between one to three months, nor has he provided end of contract benefits or tickets home. Each time we come to the office, it is always, ‘Come back in a couple of days and you will have your pay and tickets’ … We have worked hard and just want what is due to us and to go home. We are stuck now in cramped accommodations, with poor food and no clean drinking water. We are treated like animals.”
It’s also important to understand that Qatar is quite literally a desert. Temperatures regularly climb above 110° F during the summer, and workers are forced to do backbreaking labor for extended hours in this heat, with limited food, water and breaks.
In the last year, Qatar put forth two charters (the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards or QFMS and the Supreme Committee Workers’ Welfare Standards or SCWWS) that were supposed to help deal with some of these issues. However, the charters are toothless, with most of the oversight and enforcement being left up to the very employers who are guilty of violating the rights of their workers.
So how did a country smaller than Massachusetts with summers that get deadly hot (so hot that FIFA is considering moving the tournament to the winter for the first time ever) beat out Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States for the 2022 World Cup?
Well, the simple answer is money. Qatar is known for its vast oil wealth, and it was recently revealed that a company owned by former Qatari FIFA executive Mohamed Bin Hammam paid Jack Warner (FIFA’s former vice president) $1.2 million for very vague “work” he supposedly carried out for them.
The payment came just 2 weeks after Qatar won the bid (though this information was not revealed until this month). An additional $1 million was paid out to Warner’s sons and another employee. Warner resigned from FIFA a few months later amidst (different) allegations that he had facilitated bribes to members of the Caribbean soccer union on behalf of Bin Hammam .
Corruption is not particularly unusual for the FIFA committee, however. In fact, a few weeks before the official decision was made, two of the 24 member committee were caught trying to sell their votes for business deals, sports academies and various other favors.