A report from the International Trade Union Confederation says 1,200 migrant workers from India and Nepal have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup.
The ITUC estimates that 4,000 migrant workers will die by the time the first game is played in 2022. The report is in line with recent death numbers from the embassies of the two countries.
The Nepalese embassy in Qatar reported last month that 400 Nepalese workers had died working on World Cup projects since 2010. The Indian embassy reported that 500 Indian workers had died in Qatar since 2012. There are 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar, the ITUC reports, many of whom are now tasked with building the infrastructure necessary to host a World Cup from scratch.
From the ITUC report:
Whether the cause of death is labelled a work accidents, heart attack (brought on by the life threatening effects of heat stress) or diseases from squalid living conditions, the root cause is the same–working conditions.
A Qatari World Cup organizing committee strongly denied the validity of the mortality numbers reported by the ITUC. The committee told the WSJ in a statement:
The International Trade Union Confederation’s statement that our standards have no credible enforcement mechanism is hence both incorrect and misleading. We know that there are issues. While this process of change is not something that can be achieved overnight, we have the will and the commitment to see it through.
Workers at the Lusail City construction site told the Guardian that their bosses have withheld pay, forced them to work in 122-degree heat with no rest for food, and confiscated their passports to make sure they don’t leave the country. Combine those complaints with squalid living conditions, and some are calling the situation in Qatar “modern day slavery.”
In February, the Qatar World Cup committee released a new charter outlining increased standards for pay and labor conditions for workers. FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said in a statement that the organization will look into the claims:
As the organiser of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA acknowledges its responsibility to look into human rights issues in the host countries of its flagship event. We will continue to look into this matter and work with all stakeholders so that feasible and sustainable solutions are found.
The Qatar World Cup committee is facing criticism about everything from the heat to the legitimacy of the vote that award them the event.
FIFA will vote in 2015 on whether or not the tournament will be moved to winter to avoid the oppressive summer heat—a decision that would have far-reaching implications for professional leagues and TV contracts. Qatar initially promised to hold the event in summer by using space-age cooling systems but quickly abandoned that stance.
More importantly, there’s a new report from the Telegraph that says ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner is being investigated by the FBI for taking a $2 million payment from a Qatari company shortly after the 2022 World Cup vote. The company in question is owned by a man who was given a lifetime ban from FIFA after being found guilty of bribery charges.
FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar was criticized from the beginning. In the three years since they won the right to host the event, Qatar has done little to change that widespread skepticism.