Qatar a "21st century slave state" - trade union boss

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General view of Khalifa Stadium at Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence on January 6, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. (Getty Images)

General view of Khalifa Stadium at Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence on January 6, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. (Getty Images)

Qatar has been slammed as a "21st-century slave state" by a leading trade unionist over its allegedly poor conditions for guest workers and human rights abuses, as the wealthy Gulf state gears up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to Greek leftist newspaper Avgi, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow claimed that "more labourers will die in Qatar during construction than the footballers who step on the pitch", AFP reported.

Oil and gas-rich Qatar will spend up to US$130bn on hosting the summer football tournament, a recent report by KFH-Research said, including US$35bn on a new metro transport network and US$7bn on a new sea port, as well as several new stadia. The work will rely on importing thousands of overseas labourers, predominantly from countries in South Asia including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“The way Qatar takes advantage of migrant workers is a disgrace to football,” Burrow told the newspaper. She claimed that 191 Nepali workers died in Qatar in 2010, most of them because of heart attacks caused by outdoor temperatures rising to up to 50 degrees Celsius.

"They work at risk of heart attacks and dehydration... many die at night from heat strokes” said Burrow, adding that many migrant workers are unable to leave the country as employers often confiscate their passports. Burrow called on contractors to be held accountable for working conditions.

At the end of last year, the International Trade Union Confederation said it was ready to organise a boycott of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar if no significant improvements on migrant worker conditions are going to be introduced.

The decision of FIFA to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar, the world's richest country in terms of GDP per capita, has caused considerable controversy not just because of concerns over human rights in the tiny Gulf state.

Qatar beat bids by the US and South Korea to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. But the decision to allow the Gulf state to host the tournament has drawn criticism over issues ranging from searing summer temperatures in the Gulf country, to alcohol sales.

FIFA is under growing pressure to reverse the decision amid doubts about Qatar’s ability to reduce the temperatures during the matches.

The awarding of the tournament to Qatar has also been mired in allegations of corruption in the bidding process, albeit all claims are unproven.

French Football magazine earlier this month alleged former French president Nicolas Sarkozy “colluded” with football’s governing body to award Qatar the rights to host the tournament. The magazine detailed a November 2010 dinner at the Elysée Palace involving Sarkozy, European football chief Michel Platini and the Crown Prince of Qatar.

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Posted by: Nirsly

One wonders if this trade union boss really cares about workers.

What about the rights of Palestinian workers who have to cross border police in their own homeland? End hours traveling to and from work? Slapped and beaten at checkpoints? And often arrested, or when they return home, it was bulldozed.

He forgot about that.

What about the African workers also in Israel who are treated with such extreme racism, their homes are broken into by white Israeli gangs when they are at work and are chased down the streets by gangs?

He forgot about that.

What about the Mexican grape pickets in America who work long hours under the sun and with no options for any healthcare, often they are children separated from their families, and American grape growers dealing with gangs that transport labour like sardines?

He forgot about that.

What about the millions of workers in India, China, Africa, and Europe, who are daily abused, often beaten and raped.

He forgot about that.

Posted by: SAM

I think that Qatari authorities should do a better job in clarifying the laws governing migrant workers conditions and it is the government's responsibility in the first place to ensure that the laws are not broken by contractors. A communist trade unionist is not in my opinion an authority on the issue. A more respectable body such as the U.N. should investigate the matter and issue recommendation. It is sad to hear that 191 workers out of a million plus suffered heart attacks in 2010 due to the heat, but how many died in 2011 and 2012 and can their deaths really by directly attributed to wrong-doings by contractors? I am not an expert on the matter, but the article seems to be one-sided.

Posted by: RBH

This is the situation in all of the Gulf, not just Qatar.

Posted by: Qatari

That's not 100% true. You look at your country through a "bee" eye and at the GCC through a "fly" eye. That's called hatred, I hope you get well soon.

Posted by: RBH

Well thr Gulf is worse.... dah! We don't make them live in industrial areas like you people do!!!

Posted by: Qatari

Lebanon too, I have seen it myself.

Posted by: Hisham

It's not like the workers are worse off than in the places they come from. Have we all forgotten that the average people who do this work come from heavily polluted environments with greater health risks and deceases than anywhere else in the world? However bad it seems, they are getting paid more than in their home countries, and I would choose to build stadiums in Qatar over taking apart freight ships with asbestos, nuclear material and other health hazardous stuff somewhere in Calcutta any day, however heartless I may sound, it's the simple truth!

Posted by: RBH

So realiste, just because they leave their home country they should be treated like animals as in the Gulf?!

Posted by: kingkaiser

X being better than Y doesn't necessarily make X acceptable. Let me stretch that argument to an extreme to show why it doesn't work. We would generally agree that dismemberment or disfigurement is a better alternative than death. However, I promise you that there would be serious ramifications if you were to find a child who was dying of malaria, cured him, and then spent the next 10 years mauling and dismembering him. I'm fairly sure we can agree that this scenario would not be acceptable; while you may have spared him from a worse fate, it still doesn't justify abuse of any sort.

As some have said "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Our problem in the region (and expats certainly do this as well) is that we seem not to view those of lower economic status as human at all. Thats a mindset that needs to change.

Posted by: Paolo C

I don't understand why this guy is giving the fault to Qatar instead of accusing Fifa who don't care less about the workers of developing countries.

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