As Qatar, a tiny (and authoritarian) country, continues its preparation to host the 2022 World Cup, it has had to import nearly all of the manpower required to complete the extravagant construction projects needed to host the event. How the Qatari government treats the migrant workers who come into its country to build its stadiums has been the subject of lots of discussion — it’s a horrific tragedy of human-rights violations.
Inhumane working conditions and high death tolls have become all but common knowledge, but the key difference between the World Cup conditions and those of other poverty-labor atrocities is that the workers in Qatar are not in their home country. They’re miles from home, and Qatar’s labor laws allow the workers’ bosses to confiscate passports and prevent them from leaving the country — even for a loved one’s funeral.
Tragically, there have been a lot of funerals lately for the families of Nepalese workers (of which there are an estimated 400,000), due to the massive earthquake in the country last month. Nepalese economic minister Tek Bahadur Gurung publicly condemned Qatar and FIFA in a statement published in the Guardian:
[Nepalese workers] on World Cup construction sites are not being allowed to leave because of the pressure to complete projects on time.
They have lost relatives and their homes and are enduring very difficult conditions in Qatar. This is adding to their suffering.
Nothing will change for migrant workers until FIFA and its rich sponsors insist on it. These are the people who are bringing the World Cup to Qatar. But we are a small, poor country and these powerful organisations are not interested in listening to us.
Unfortunately, Gurung is right on the money here. We could devote thousands of words detailing all the ways that FIFA is a reprehensible organization, but it wouldn’t change the fact that they have undue amounts of power in situations like this, and that they’re unlikely to change unless all of their corporate sponsors desert them. Until that happens, all we can do is keep those oppressed by Qatar and FIFA in our thoughts and hope those with more power do the same.