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Injured worker in Qatar (ITUC-Matilde Gattoni)-700x300

Qatar: this is what forced labour looks like

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By Michael Hayworth

Crisis Campaigner at Amnesty International

Wednesday, 04 December 2013

LIVING in squalid conditions, exposed to untreated sewage, without power and, in some cases, without running water was not the life that was promised to workers who left South Asia to work on the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Workers were lured in on false promises of high wages and good working conditions, but when they arrived the job was different, the pay was lower and their employer confiscated their passport and held it indefinitely.

They go without pay for months, work in dangerous conditions and are effectively unable to go home without their employer’s permission.

“Please tell me – is there any way to get out of here? . . . We are going totally mad,” a Nepalese construction worker, unpaid for seven months, told Amnesty International, as documented in a new report The Dark Side of Migration.

Without a passport to get home and many unpaid for months, migrant workers are at the mercy of their employers.

Our researchers watched as 11 men falsely signed papers for government officials stating they had received their wages, just get their passports back from their employer and go home.

A representative of Doha’s main hospital stated earlier this year that more than 1000 people were admitted to the trauma unit in 2012 having fallen from height at work. Ten per cent were disabled as a result and the mortality rate was “significant”.

It‘s outrageous that in one of the world’s richest countries, preparing for one of the world’s highest grossing sporting events, this abuse is allowed to continue.

Migrant accomodation in Qatar

The squalid living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar include industrial refuse and chemical waste. Photo: Amnesty International

So who is to blame?

It would be easy to point the finger at one employer or another, but the fact is it is the system that is broken. Laws that regulate migrant work in Qatar are stacked against the employee in favour of the employer.

For a country where 88% of the population are migrant workers, this can have a significant effect on living standards.

Qatari authorities must act to prevent these abuse by introducing laws that protect the rights of migrant workers.

What about FIFA you ask? They might not be employing these people but they absolutely have a responsibility to work with the Qatari authorities to make things right.

What can be done?

Organisations like FIFA, national leagues, soccer clubs and even working people need to tell Qatar to stop the abuse of migrant workers.

The 2022 Qatar World Cup is just under a decade away, that is a decade of misery for the workers who build the stadiums and a decade of profits for those who exploit them if nothing is done.

Earlier this week, the International Trade Union Confederation concluded a four-day visit to Qatar and found no improvement in living and working conditions for migrant workers.

The ITUC estimates 4000 more workers will die before a ball is kicked in the World Cup, unless Qatar introduces reforms and meets international labour laws.

Like Amnesty International, unions have been campaigning to get the Qatari government to respect workers’ rights  and there has been some success, but we need your help.


Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Comments

  1. Col Hesse
    Thursday, 5 December, 2013 at 2:22 pm · Reply

    This is a really important issue. If the argument that sport promotes peace and understanding between cultures is to have any value then FIFA must step in and ensure the workers in Qatar have the highest level of OH&S, certainly no less than in Australia, and that pay and other working conditions are equally proper and paid fortnightly with no restriction on travel or the rights of unions to both exist and to organise.

    A failure to act by FIFA should lead to a boycott of the World Cup in Qatar.

  2. Simon Moon
    Monday, 2 November, 2015 at 5:10 pm · Reply

    What a disgrace. Not really a surprise though. FIFA is corrupt and Qatari people would generally view these workers as dispensable.

    Boycott them both.


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