From team rivalries to WAG behaviours, the World Cup will always hit the deadlines. However following allegations of human trafficking in the Qatari construction industry, this week it has made the press with a very different sort of scandal.
Even with nine years to go, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has already been a big talking point. Newspapers throughout the world have filled their sports pages with debates over the climate in the Middle Eastern nation, which reaches highs of 41˚C in the summer. Many feared this would be a dangerous heat to play football in and have pushed for the tournament to be moved to winter.
However, the same thought wasn’t given to the thousands of migrant labourers working to build the stadiums, hotels and skyscrapers in preparation for the event.
A recent investigation by the Guardian highlights the exploitation of Nepalese migrant labourers entering Qatar with the promise of a good wage, comfortable housing and safe working conditions. Apparently this summer almost one man a day died, many from heart failure. The youngest was just 16 years old.
The guardian reports that documents they obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha show evidence of forced labour. Allegations include:
- Nepalese workers were not paid for months and have had their salaries retained to deter them from running away.
- Employers have routinely confiscated passports and refused to issue ID cards, which effectively reduced workers to the status of illegal aliens.
- Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.
- About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape these brutal situations
- In some places twelve men share one room in hostels filthy kitchens, many have become ill from these squalid living conditions.
- Men have had to beg for food and have worked 12 hour shifts on empty stomachs
- Some have reported being “sold” to other employers when their initial contracts ran out [
The official statements from the company behind the Lusail City development, Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising committee and the labour ministry all state their “concern” at the allegations and say they will take appropriate action.
The Nepali workers are trapped by huge debts they accrue to their recruitment agents that they are unable to pay back as their wages are withheld and their identity documents are confiscated. This is forced labour, a human rights abuse and form of human trafficking.
These cases are not exclusive to Nepalese migrants, nor exclusive to Qatar. It is estimated that thousands of Bangladeshi migrants find themselves in similar situations after being duped by recruiters advertising lucrative jobs in the Middle East and Africa. Labour migration is seen as an important livelihood option for many Bangladeshis and in 2012, 600,000 left to fill overseas jobs. This makes them vulnerable to scam recruiters and middlemen who led these workers into forced labour and leave them vulnerable with huge debts and no immigration papers.
But what’s the solution?
Last year we welcomed the Qatari Ambassador and a delegation from the Qatar Foundation in Combating Human Trafficking to the launch of a GIFT box event in London in 2012 July. Our CEO, Ruth Dearnley has been to Qatar to present at conferences about our approach of human trafficking prevention through community awareness and local action.
We believe that in Qatar as in the UK, as in Nepal and everywhere around the world, we need community driven change. Human trafficking prospers when hidden and underground. A light needs to be shone on the abuses of workers’ rights.
Strong laws enforced, just labour practices, safe construction sites, all are imperative to bring change but people trafficking will stop when the people, workers, managers, business leaders, politicians and all people who live and work in every community know what people trafficking is, how it effects them and what all must do to stop it.
Light must shine in every corner to expose this crime that hides or even worse is accepted by some and ignored. This is no longer an option.