Since Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, there has been debate about its treatment of foreign workers and the human cost of the event. There are various estimates of how many workers have been killed on World Cup construction sites in Qatar, but the true number is hard to determine.
A few days before the Qatar 2022 Soccer World Cup party begins, the demand for justice for the thousands of migrant workers who died during the preparations increases.
Qatar, a nation that has half the territory of El Salvador, will be the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup. This would not be imaginable if it were not for the enormous economic and political influence that it has thanks to the massive extraction of oil. A monetary power that, of course, they have wanted to reflect in each of the impressive infrastructures that will house this World Cup.
The projects have practically all required migrant labour. It is estimated that between 90 and 95% of the workers who have participated in the construction of these facilities, such as the Khalifa International Stadium, are foreigners.
In total, there are about two million people from the lowest and most impoverished strata of nations such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kenya, the Philippines and Indonesia. Workers who have found subhuman conditions by their employers are covered by Qatar.
How many migrant workers died?
A recent report by the English newspaper The Guardian counts the death of 6,751 migrant workers from countries such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The count includes all the deaths of migrants reported by official sources from 10 years ago when Qatar was assigned to hold the World Cup.
Another report by Amnesty International raises the death toll above 15,000 in the last decade.
In May 2022, Amnesty International and 24 other civil society organizations and trade unions wrote to Gianni Infantino to request the creation of a compensation program for the abuses suffered by people. Theirs is just one of the countless stories of human suffering that hide behind the shiny facade that Qatar will present to the world from November 20.
The millions of migrant workers who made all of this possible have also paid a heavy price. The most, Tul Bahadur Gharti, a 34-year-old Nepali citizen died in his sleep, in November 2020, after having worked on a construction site for more than 10 hours in temperatures of up to 39°. Gharti’s wife, Bipana, never received an explanation about what happened to her husband.
According to the death certificate issued by the Qatari authorities, Gharti, with no history of health problems, had died of “natural causes”.
How do these people get to work in Qatar?
On many occasions, contact between employees and employers in Qatar does not exist and this is where numerous intermediary companies come into action that is in charge of recruiting people who can serve as labourers in India, Nepal, Bangladesh or the Philippines in exchange for a commission.
Amnesty International was able to find out that some workers get into debt from these intermediaries from the beginning so that they can go to work in Qatar with the dream that their salary will be much better than in their countries. This organization reported that these debts oscillate between 500 and 4,300 dollars, very high figures for people with very low resources.
Intermediary companies repeatedly resort to lies in order to hire as many people as possible. Lies range from a salary higher than the real one to optimal working conditions.
As portrayed by the sports journalist and author of the book ‘Qatar: Blood, money and football’, Fonsi Loaiza, “these workers encounter reality once they arrive in Qatar. There they see how, in some cases, they withhold the first of their salaries, once they are paid they are lower than promised and if they protest they risk being deported”.
Compensation to migrant World Cup workers
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sued FIFA and Qatar for compensation to migrant World Cup workers and their families. HRW has compiled in a report the experience of 90 infrastructure construction workers for the World Cup where they denounce all kinds of labour exploitation, non-payment of promised wages, borrowing to pay for their stay in Qatar or the death of many colleagues to hunger.
An Amnesty International survey showed great support for the aforementioned measure, with the highest percentage in Kenya (93% of those surveyed), an African country from which thousands of workers emigrate to work in Qatar. This organization has documented numerous cases of abuse against people from this background, including forced labour in the private security sector,
Three months before the World Cup, the Qatari regime detained and expelled 60 workers who participated in a protest against non-payment and slave conditions. They had not received their misery wages for 7 months and worked at more than 40 degrees in working days of up to 18 hours.
The demonstration was called in front of the offices of the company Al Bandary International Group, which as a construction company has built luxury complexes, water parks and skyscrapers in Lusail and Doha. This company has diversified its activities and includes real estate, cleaning, restaurant, hotel, travel and food companies with the famous popular dish of shawarma. According to the official website of this multinational, its goal is “to be the leading construction provider in Qatar and the Middle East,
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