*Originally published on RYOT.org on November 1st, 2015 by Sean Sawyer*
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has had its fair share of controversy since it was awarded to the emirate in 2010.
First, it was the weather. Typically, the FIFA World Cup is played in the summer when players are free from their club duties. After ruminating on the effects of the unbearable summer heat in Qatar, officials decided that the tournament should be held in November – peak season for club level leagues.
Then, in May of this year FIFA was rocked by a large scale corruption case. This caused Swiss officials and the FBI to investigate if there was corruption in the selection process for deciding the host nations of the 2018 World Cup – Russia – and the 2022 World Cup – Qatar.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is currently suspended pending a corruption investigation, recently said, “It was agreed inside the group that we go to Russia because it has never been to eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America.” But that plan was foiled after, per Blatter’s accusation, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, European football chief Michel Platini and Prince of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani met for lunch.
Blatter said, “after talks between Sarkozy and Qatar’s prince, who is now running the emirate, a meeting followed by lunch between the two men and Platini. Four votes of Europe were taken from the US, so the result was 14 to eight. With those four votes it would have been 12 against 10 [to the advantage of the USA].” Yellow card.
While the 2022 World Cup in Qatar seems tainted already, the worst details may just be coming out. Qatar is now being accused of modern slavery for the strict restrictions it has placed on the workers building the venues. About 90 percent of the workforce are foreigners and need permission to leave Qatar, essentially making their employers their masters.
Only Saudi Arabia and North Korea have similar travel restrictions for their workers.
Reports surfaced that from 2010-2013, about 1,800 migrant workers have lost their lives during construction. The causes of death are not transparent enough to say that the working conditions are unbearable, according to the law firm DLA Piper, which was commissioned by the Qatari government to look into the issue. These deaths range from natural causes to suicide to car and construction accidents.
Not all of these workers are working on facilities for the World Cup, but since 2010 Qatar has been building World Cup venues, skyscrapers and other buildings in anticipation for the 2022 World Cup, essentially creating a brand new city.
The system that binds workers to travel restrictions based on their employers discretion is known as kafala. Qatar has promised to reform this system, but the proposed reform would bind the workers to a guaranteed 5 years of travel restrictions, questioning if the reform is even an upgrade.
Promises of reform have been used as a smokescreen to draw in companies and governments to do business in Qatar as the Gulf state rolls out massive infrastructure developments to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement. “The tragedy of 1.7 million migrant workers trapped in Qatar defines modern day slavery.”
Migrants from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh make up the majority of the estimated 1.4-1.7 million migrant workers and the majority of the 1,800 deaths from 2010-2013. This number is expected to rise to 2.4 million migrant workers prior to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, possibly culminating in 4,000 deaths at this rate, the ITUC estimates.
In addition, it has been reported before that a majority of the workers in Qatar have not been paid their paychecks of about $13 per day in nearly a year. Red card.
With human rights being a large concern in Qatar and with Blatter’s recent comments on corruption regarding Qatar winning the 2022 World Cup bid, Qatar may receive even more scrutiny and even calls for them to be stripped of their hosting privileges, according to English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke.