In 2010, the year marked a big day not just for Qatar but to the Arab world as a whole, marked a new dawn. It is a year when the FIFA president announced that Qatar will the hosting the world cup in 2022 and the first time in the Arab world. Qatar embarked on an ambitious plan to build 86250 sitting capacity stadia (Thompson, 2010). However, no one knew that the jubilation would later lead to criticism from every quota.
News from the media reported of the deplorable conditions the workers were living in, especially Indian immigrants. Reports revealed that since the construction work started in 2012, a total of 900 workers have died building the infrastructure. The Washington Post, for instance, reported that 700 immigrant workers died between 2010 and 2012 (Washington Post, 2014). It also projected that if conditions would not get any better, 4000 could have lost their lives before the beginning of the world cup in 2022. It is known that when Russia was preparing for winter Olympics in Sochi, 25 construction workers died; 6 people died during the construction of the world cup stadium in Brazil. During the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s, 11 people died. Comparing the above mentioned statistics, the Qatar death rates are alarming (Thompson, 2010). The deaths relate to accidents while working, heart attacks from heat, stress and illnesses due to poor living standards.
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However, the question remains – why are the death rates so high? Very few rights were assigned to workers in Qatar (Business-humanrights.org, 2014). Under law, the workers must have an employer who is responsible for all the work processes; he is supposed to control everything from compensation, worker’s ability to change job and even on when he can leave the country (Manfred, 2014). These employers might go to the extent of confiscating the worker’s passports and other travel documents. The workers also go for months without getting paid that shows the seriousness of the matter. The government and other relevant authorities should step in and set legislative laws that aim to protect the lives of the workers and their well-being. By use of force, the workers are made to work long hours, six days a week under heat, stress and are left to die in large numbers; authorities are also forced to lie about the real causes of deaths though threats and intimidation (Manfred, 2014).
Furthermore, women who do not have husbands or male sponsors often become victims of rape and physical abuse, some are even held in crowded, unhygienic detention camps. The authorities running these camps do not report who has been detained, nor do they disclose the fate of neither the detainees nor their embassies. In a report by the ITUC that interviewed the workers, it was revealed that the authorities did not provide clean water for drinking and washing and the only water they could use was salty. The living areas were so deplorable that they lived between eight to twelve workers in a single room with only one kitchen, one toilet and one washing area. Grown men were also reported to being treated like animals, living in stables for horses.
The case in Qatar can be compared to what happened in colonial Africa in the 19th century, only that it is in the present age. Employers owned workers and had control over everything, curtailing theur freedom and treating as slaves. A minimum of 2500 Indonesian maids flee from their oppressive employers every year. About an average of 20 Indian workers die every month, rising to 27 on the hottest months. Whether we relate these deaths to heat, stress or accidents, the cause is one – working conditions. The ineffectiveness of the court system is another factor that adds salt to an already fresh wound; the process can take years before a judgment passes, while the worker goes without pay or support. The irony of the process is the fact that the evidence produced in court against the worker comes from the accused employer. The court system clearly undermines justice to the worker. The supreme committee which is responsible for the development project denied any responsibility of the workers; they said that they did not register and hence are not covered by the committee.
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Nonetheless, Qatar government has received pressure from all sectors of human rights watch groups, including transparency, international calling on it to intervene and free the workers from their misery but nothing major has happened (Human Rights Watch, 2012). Despite the letter written to FIFA by the ITUC, FIFA can only recommend but cannot authorize what has to be done in Qatar’s case. It is not a law making body in Qatar, although it recommends that Qatar abolishes the Kafala law system (Jamieson, 2014). Qatar ranks highest with the migrant worker to the domestic population in the world. Study shows that 90% of the total labor force are immigrants. Its apparent plans are underway to recruit 1.5 million workers to finish the project. In interviews, workers revealed that the companies kept their salaries to keep employees from running away as their debt increase to 36% interest rates on loans. The irony is that one of the richest countries in the world exploits one of the poorest in order to host one of the world’s prestigious sport events (Human Rights Watch, 2012). Fears are that an expected half a million people will flock to Qatar before 2022 from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India to take part in the construction of the stadia, hotels and infrastructure. With the current mortality rates, it is true that many more will die, given the existing conditions.