Qatar criticized for promoting ‘slave labor’ in World Cup projects

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Qatar has been criticized over the mistreatment of “dozens” of Nepalese laborers in the country who have died due to “appalling” labor abuses, according to an investigation by British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday.

The probe highlighted that many of the abused laborers had been working on projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup which Qatar is set to host.

Nepalese laborers, who make up the single largest ethnic majority of construction workers in the country, died at a rate of “almost one a day,” due to exploitation and abuse that fit the International Labor Organization’s definition of slavery, reported The Guardian.

The report reveals that documents from the Nepalese embassy in Qatar’s capital of Doha show a minimum of 44 laborers died between June 4 and Aug. 8 this year.

More than half of the deaths occurred due to heart attacks, heart failure and on-site accidents.

Additionally, the newspaper’s investigation uncovered evidence of forced labor on a huge World Cup infrastructure project, workers not being paid salaries, having their passports confiscated and being denied access to free drinking water.

One laborer from a Qatari construction site told the newspaper that they were working 12 hours a day and were not given food for 24 hours at a time. The 27-year-old worker said that he was kicked out of the labor camp for complaining about the situation and had to beg for food from the other laborers.

Azfar Khan, senior migration specialist at the International Labor Organization, told Al Arabiya English that Qatar has “very good labor laws, but they are not being implemented well to protect the workers.”

“There are very clear guidelines on health and safety concerns. The law basically states that a worker cannot work more than five hours without a break and cannot work more than eight hours a day, yet we find workers sometimes working 14 hours a day,” Khan said.

The reason for this “incoherent policy” are the “weak inspection mechanisms,” Khan noted, adding that the International Labor Organization is working with the Qatari authorities to try to improve inspection regulations.

“What we have is an incoherent policy and what we would like to see is a more coherent policy,” he said.

He noted that the Ministry of Labor is the top authority that should oversee all the work that goes on in the country. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, on the other hand, should only give recommendations, according to Khan.

The World Cup’s organizing committee responded to The Guardian’s report saying it was “appalled.”

“Like everyone viewing the video and images, and reading the accompanying texts, we are appalled by the findings presented in The Guardian’s report. There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner,” a statement said.

“The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar,” it added.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, told The Guardian that the evidence uncovered is “clear proof” of the use of systematic forced labor in Qatar.

“In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labor to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labor. It is already happening,” McQuade told The Guardian.

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