The Lusail Stadium in Qatar, where the FIFA World Cup final will soon be held, cost more than $700 million to build. Qatar has become one of the richest countries on Earth thanks to oil and gas exports.
Still, the world has been moving toward renewable energy in the past few years, and tensions between countries have worsened. So Qatar has started to focus on another area that has helped it become a rich country: sports.
Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup in 2010. It has built up 8 stadiums, dozens of hotels, miles of roads and metro lines, and a whole new city with golf courses, marinas, and a theme park.
Qatar has been using low-paid Asian and African workers for decades
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When we think about the migrant workers’ recruitment journey, we think about workers who are in extremely low-wage situations. Yet, Qatar promises them upward socioeconomic mobility in exchange for illegal recruitment fees upfront, incurring significant debt.
Working in Qatar often requires workers to use their own or their family’s savings to make up the difference in salary. But now that they’re in the kafala system, they realize they have no recourse. Therefore, the immigrant’s legal status is linked to their employer.
When Qatar started getting ready for the World Cup, it was clear that the kafala system kept people in a cycle of abuse. People from other countries were hired to help build stadiums like Lusail.
The Qatar stadiums were discovered to be home to migrant workers living in private camps far from cities. These workers worked up to 14-hour days in harsh conditions.
Qatar’s lack of transparency makes it hard to know how many migrants have died on the job near stadiums. Still, the real number is probably much higher.
Many migrants who live and work in the kafala system are mistreated and don’t get paid for their work. So, they can’t get justice because they are stuck in debt.
After years of mounting pressure from human rights organizations, Qatar signed an agreement promising to align its laws and labor practices to international standards. But the challenge with the minimum wage laws is enforcement.
How many foreign workers have died in Qatar?
The number of recorded deaths is misleading, as many people may have died of old age or other natural causes.
The government stated that 37 foreign workers died on World Cup stadium construction sites. However, the ILO believes this is an underestimate.
How are foreign workers treated?
Since 2017, the government has introduced measures to protect foreign workers from working in very hot weather and to improve conditions in labor camps.
Previously, Qatari companies prevented foreign workers from leaving their jobs, but the government has abolished this practice.
What has the Qatari government said about the rights of foreign workers?
The Qatari government has introduced a number of reforms to improve the working conditions of foreign workers.
What have the teams participating in the World Cup said?
Fifa has asked the 32 participating teams to focus on soccer. However, ten European soccer federations have said that human rights are universal and apply everywhere.
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