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Mon 11 Feb 2013 10:00 AM

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

ITUC chief slams 2022 FIFA World Cup host over alleged human rights abuses, working conditions

Qatar a "21st century slave state" - trade union boss
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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Anon 7 years ago

The Qatari's are simply not bothered or affected and remain ignorant of world affairs etc. Mega rich they may be but social and intellect development in Qatar is 3rd world standard.

george jefferson 7 years ago

give it to Abudhabi or Dubai

procan 7 years ago

You just could not give it to some one George either it would go to the next bidder or there would need to be .Qatar tiny population of 300,000 just can not aford to pay expat workers proper wages and the Human rights protection they need. Fact is Qataris do not like expats particulary the third world workers.

Chris 7 years ago

Times have changed, and the region needs to move beyond this archaic business model. It might be hard to hear, but the plight of migrant workers in the Gulf is an issue that needs to be addressed. You cannot build a civilized, modern society on the backs of others.

Qatari 7 years ago

So tell me Anon, what are the french forces doing in Mali right now ?

John 7 years ago

Correct. It should be offered to the USA who came second in the voting.

They have the infrastructure, some great stadiums that are ready to use, excellent transport links and have already held a good tournament in 1994 proving they can do the job.

Far better than the utter farce of Qatar.

mohammed 7 years ago

@ Qatari, the French forces are helping the Malian government and its people fight Islamist militants and terrorists.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask anything else.

Qatari 7 years ago

So who judges them about what they are doing ? is everyone killed in Mali now a so called "Islamist militants" and "terrorist", no one judges them while they are doing worse than what the article likes to call Qatar "21st century slave state". living conditions and laws in Qatar won't kill as much (if any) compared to people killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, and other places. After all everyone is jealous of Qatar for winning WC 2022 Host, and these are excuses just to try and remove it from us.

Paolo C 7 years ago

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.

Hisham 7 years ago

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!