Sizzling hot sun glaring at the stadium; elaborate water taxis entering from shore; flickering night lights and extravagant buildings.
When FIFA announced in 2010 that the 2022 World Cup would be held at Qatar, representatives of Qatar were enthralled. They finally had the opportunity to open up a seemingly desolate place to the world, which could lead to an increase of capital. Before the announcement, Qatar released a trailer of how 2022 World Cup Stadium would look like, which has over a million views. Featuring a large stadium that is surrounded by sea, the clip depicts seemingly ostentatious infrastructure such as water taxis. However, behind those beautiful images of what the 2022 World Cup Stadium would look like, there are workers who are suffering.
According to The Guardian, 90% of the workforce that is building the stadium constitutes immigrants who are from undeveloped countries like India and Nepal. These workers, many of whom have low income and no occupation, pay $500-$4300 to agents in their home country so that they can secure a position in the workforce. These hopeful men are promised high wages which they need desperately to support their families.
Once they arrive at Qatar, these workers are employed under the Kafala system, wherein migrant workers are subject to their employers’ strict rules. From there, their hopes are shattered: rather than receiving the amount of payment they had been promised, the workers receive half of the amount. Furthermore, they are given limited food, dire accommodation, and forced labour.
Ram Mahara, a 27 years old migrant, claimed that he “worked on an empty stomach for 24 hours,” and that when he complained, he was assaulted and kicked out of the labor camp. Mahara is one of the many migrant workers who are suffering harsh treatment. Another migrant worker told Amnesty International that when he told his manager that he wanted to leave, the manager yelled back ‘keep working or you will never leave!’
In response to the escalating death rate and cruelty towards the workers, several measures have been taken by organizations such as DLA Piper and the UN. Qatar’s World Cup Committee has hired DLA Piper to examine the labor workforce and recommend further actions to alleviate the problem. As promising as it sounds, the results have proven it to be futile; Mr. Pullen, former DLA lawyer, told The New York Times that changes in the Kafala system are slow and that it is difficult to know if changes are made because Qatar lacks transparency. In turn, the United Nations Labour Organisation announced in early 2016 that the UN would give Qatar 12 months to end forced labour of migrant workers. This sparked interest in many as Qatar is only the fifth country to face an official inquiry from the UN.
Despite the oppositions and concerns raised by the public, it seems likely that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar, as the committee has announced early November that Qatar will ban alcohol in streets during the World Cup. Regardless of whether or not it will take place in Qatar, we must be aware that behind those smiles from the Qatar leaders, there are thousands that are dying. In fact, the International Trade Union Confederation predicts that 4,000 migrant workers could die before the 2022 World Cup. If the World Cup takes place in Qatar, we need to ask ourselves: do we still see the luxurious stadium with delight, or with the suffering of the workers who built it?