Hard as it may be to picture sitting in heated beer gardens watching Southgate’s eleven take on the globe under the gleen of Middle Eastern skies, the 2022 Qatar World Cup will kick off in exactly four years time.
On November 21, 2022, attendees will flock to the newly-renovated Khalifa International Stadium in temperatures which will still rise above 30C, among an atmosphere just as heated.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with the host nation, accusing it of financing and harbouring ‘terrorists’ and meddling in the domestic affairs of its neighbouring countries. Saudi Arabia then closed Qatar’s sole land border while the country and closed their airspace to flights to it.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE soon banned their nationals from visiting or living in Qatar, and ordered natives to leave within 14 days under the threat of fines (or worse) for non-compliance.
Although it came with inevitable hang-ups. What about the impact it would have on families, those in education or undergoing medical treatment? On top of it all, Qatari forces were expelled from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen and a UN mission to Djibouti.
Today (November 21), it was revealed migrant workers from some of the planet’s poorest countries were being paid under £35 a week to create Qatar’s World Cup haven.
One anonymous worker told the Guardian he earned a ‘650 a month basic salary’. However it was also reported how building one of seven stadiums set to amaze supporters can earn you £140. That’s £5 a day.
Having come into effect in December 2016, an Emir signed an amendment to Qatar’s new sponsorship law the following month. It confirmed migrant workers would continue to require the permission of their employer to leave the country.
Then, for the first time, a law providing legal protections for domestic workers’ labour rights was passed.
Perhaps the most striking stipulation of which was covering ‘the costs of preparing and transporting the body of a non-Qatari employee who passes away during his service to his country of origin, as well as the travel costs for one of his parents living inside or outside of Qatar to accompany the body, shall be borne by the government entity which employed him.’
Therein lies the endless controversy: Qatar’s World Cup reported mistreatment of staff.
Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs, said:
We’ve never called for Qatar to be stripped of the World Cup, but ever since it was awarded hosting rights we’ve been pressing the authorities to clean up their act over the exploitation of migrant workers.
Promised reforms have been slow in coming and we remain concerned that 2022 will arrive and Qatar’s hundreds of thousands of foreign workers will still be facing exploitation and poor working and living conditions.
If Qatar ever saw the World Cup as a way of ‘sportswashing’ the country’s tarnished human rights, this has backfired. The whole world is now aware of Qatar’s dreadful record on labour rights.
Amnesty reported, on May 25, 2017, despite being at risk of torture, human rights activist Mohammed al-Otaibi was forcibly returned by the government to Saudi Arabia, where he faced trial.
He’d arrived in Qatar in February 2017. By May 24, while attempting to travel to Norway, where he’d been granted asylum, he was detained by Qatari officials at Doha airport.
As for freedoms of expression, association and assembly, they explained:
The authorities maintained restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly that were not in conformity with international law and standards.
The authorities did not permit the existence of independent political parties, and workers’ associations were only permitted for Qatari citizens if they met strict criteria. Laws criminalizing expression deemed offensive to the Emir were maintained. [sic]
In January, the government arbitrarily imposed a travel ban on human rights lawyer Najeeb al-Nuaimi, who was initially informed by text message. The ban remained in place at the end of the year, limiting the lawyer’s right to free movement.
No World Cup has ever been shrouded in such contention. There may be four years to go, but that’s not to say there isn’t a chance of the slightest bit of justice for the workers who’ve lost their lives while scraping the financial barrel.
To find out more about the work Amnesty International undertake, follow this link.
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