The logistical problems that are already plaguing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are myriad, but planning for the event presents even bigger problems than trying to figure out how to play soccer in 120-degree temperatures. Namely, the deaths of hundreds of migrant workers who are building infrastructure for the World Cup in slave-like conditions.
Qatar is a country that was built on the backs of migrant workers from places like Nepal and India, and as The Guardian's Nick Cohen points out, it's those same workers who will be responsible for building the roads and stadiums that will be necessary to host the World Cup. These workers live and work in hellish conditions, and are already dying in droves:
"More workers will die building World Cup infrastructure than players will take to the field," predicts Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Even if the teams in Qatar use all their substitutes, she is likely to be right.
Qatar's absolute monarchy, run by the fabulously rich and extraordinarily secretive Al Thani clan, no more keeps health and safety statistics than it allows free elections. The Trade Union Confederation has had to count the corpses the hard way. It found that 83 Indians have died so far this year. The Gulf statelet was also the graveyard for 119 Nepalese construction workers. With 202 migrants from other countries dying over the same nine months, Ms Burrow is able to say with confidence there is at least one death for every day of the year. The body count can only rise now that Qatar has announced that it will take on 500,000 more migrants, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, to build the stadiums, hotels and roads for 2022.
Well, that's depressing. And if you'd like some insight on what it's like to be a migrant worker in Qatar, feel free to watch this first-person testimonial:
And that video doesn't even mention Qatar's Kafala system, which essentially strips all migrant workers of their basic human rights. Allow Human Rights Watch to explain:
A major barrier to redressing labor abuses is the kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence to his or her employer, or “sponsor.” Migrant workers cannot change jobs without their sponsoring employer’s consent, except in exceptional cases with permission from the Interior Ministry. If a worker leaves his or her sponsoring employer, even if fleeing abuse, the employer can report the worker as “absconding,” leading to detention and deportation. In order to leave Qatar, migrants must obtain an exit visa from their sponsor, and some said sponsors denied them these visas. Workers widely reported that sponsors confiscated their passports, in violation of the Sponsorship Law.
We've still got nine years to go before the tournament even starts, and stories like this are only going to get more plentiful and disturbing as time goes on.