Migrant workers 'treated like slaves' in Qatar

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A report into the conditions of migrant workers helping Qatar prepare for the football World Cup in 2022 has found that they are being treated like slaves. Some have had their passports taken away by their employers, and others have not been paid. 44 workers from Nepal died in the hostile working conditions of the Qatari summer between June 4th and August 8th 2013. Some 30 Nepalis have entered the Nepali embassy in the Qatari capital Doha seeking refuge.

The report, written by journalists at The Guardian, a UK newspaper, alleges that workers from Nepal and other countries in south and east Asia are being exploited by 'employment agents' who charge workers to find them work and for their passage to Qatar and for their accommodation. These workers are, in effect, slaves. Many have not been paid at all. The 44 deaths have mostly been caused by heart attacks brought on by the heat.

Aidan McQuade of Anti-Slavery International told The Guardian 'The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar. In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.'

Workers forced to work 12-hour days with no food or pay

Workers report being left without pay and forced to work 12 hour-days in the scorching heat with no food. Temperatures reached a maximum of 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) over the summer. Workers were not given access to drinking water. Workers who complain are sacked. Because they have no resident permits, they can then be deported without receiving their back pay. The Nepali ambassador to Qatar has described the country as 'an open prison'.

Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2020 football World Cup by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in December 2010. It was a controversial decision. Football pundits immediately complained that the Qatari summer was too hot for the players to be able to play international football. The World Cup is traditionally held in June and July when the temperature in Qatar regularly reaches 41° Celsius (106° Fahrenheit).

To win the bid, Qatar promised to build 5 fully air-conditioned football stadia. While these may make it easier for international footballers to play football in 2022, the conditions endured by the workers constructing these stadia are extremely harsh.

Workers housed in filthy conditions

The Guardian report says that, throughout Qatar, workers are housed in filthy conditions, so dirty that the workers are falling ill. One of the biggest projects being built in preparation for 1922 is a new city called Lusail City. Lusail will be built from scratch. It will include a 90,000-seater stadium in which the World Cup Final will be held. The city is expected to cost $45bn (£28bn) to build.

Work has already begun on the city though work on the stadium has yet to begin. One worker on the Lusail project told The Guardian 'We'd like to leave but the company won't let us. I'm angry about how this company is treating us but we're helpless. I regret coming here but what to do?'

The Guardian says that it has uncovered 'a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders'. The report states that 'the overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world's most popular sporting tournament'.

'We take these allegations very seriously'

The Lusail Real Estate Company which is responsible for the building of Lusail issued a statement saying it would 'not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law'. It continued 'The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor . We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation'.

There have been allegations that Qatar won the 2022 World Cup bid by bribery. An investigation is currently being held.

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