Qatar Accused of Human Rights Violations in Preparation for 2022 World Cup

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2013

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Human rights activists are calling for massive changes in Qatar after an Amnesty International report on working conditions at the building sites for the 2022 World Cup revealed numerous exploitative practices by those overseeing the multi-billion dollar project.

The 167-page report, released to the public on Sunday, accuses the subcontractors in charge of construction of taking advantage of migrant workers, forcing them to work long hours through harsh conditions and, at times, against their will.

Amnesty International estimates that 94 percent of workers in Qatar are foreign nationals, and the population of the country is booming as those from Southeast Asia flock to the construction sites in search of work. It is estimated that 20 new migrants arrive in the country every minute.    

In two different investigations into the working conditions of these migrant workers, the reporters found conditions far below human standard. Workers were said to have been housed in poverty-laden communities, oftentimes without basic amenities like running water, working sewage or electricity.

Amnesty International also reports that nearly all workers are being paid salaries lower than when they were recruited—if they are being paid at all. Subcontractors have held checks from employees for months at a time, and some are going so far as to take away passports to prevent those unhappy in Qatar from leaving.

Those who choose to stick around are often subjected to harsh environments, working beyond the federally mandated times allotted for construction. The report notes that employers are failing to "protect workers’ health and safety adequately."

This comes just less than two months after an investigation from The Guardian's Pete Pattisson revealed the abusive and sometimes deadly relationships between employers at the worksites and their employees. Pattisson's report estimated that as many as 4,000 workers will die as the result of construction, and the Nepalese embassy provided him with an increasing number of recorded deaths.

As a result of the harsh environment, many are going through bouts of emotional distress and depression, with one man telling Amnesty International investigators he was planning to commit suicide. Here is how a Nepalese worker described conditions in March:

You see, some families are in rented accommodation back home. Now for eight months if we don’t send any money, how would they live there? Their landlord is going to throw them out of their houses now. Right now they are somehow trying to make ends meet... That’s why we are asking the company, ‘it is ok if you don’t give us money, but please send us home’. We asked them to just return our passport and send us back.

Amid controversy, FIFA president Sepp Blatter traveled to Qatar this month to speak with officials and survey the working conditions. Blatter admitted that while working conditions weren't perfect, Qatar was doing a good job of rectifying that, and he even opened up the possibility of multiple Middle East countries sharing in the World Cup hosting duties.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup following an intense bidding process in 2010. 

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