What Hu­man Rights?

The in­hu­man con­di­tions in which the 2022 Qatar World Cup preps are go­ing on shouldn’t give any­one a kick to watch the tour­na­ment

The Economic Times - - Sports - Shamya Das­gupta

Brazi l’s poor hu­man rights record came un­der the scan­ner be­fore the 2014 football World Cup. The anti-ter­ror laws that al­lowed the gov­ern­ment to crush demon­stra­tions – a nd t here were many – by force; evic­tions to make way for con­struc­tions; police and mil­i­tary takeovers of fave­las. News about the vi­o­la­tions was a steady back­ground to the cham­pi­onship. The World Cup in 2018 will be held in Rus­sia, an­other coun­try with a highly dodgy hu­man rights record. The Hu­man Rights Watch World Re­por t of 2 015 painted a dis­tress­ing pic­ture of it: “The Krem­lin took an­other leap back­ward in 2014 by in­ten­si­fy­ing its crack­down on civil so­ci­ety, me­dia, and the in­ter­net, as it sought to con­trol the nar­ra­tive about de­vel­op­ments in Ukraine. Par­lia­ment adopted laws, and au­thor­i­ties en­gaged in prac­tices, that in­creas­ingly iso­lated the coun­try and inf lamed a level of anti-West­ern hys­te­ria un­seen since the Soviet era.”

Closer to the 2018 tour­na­ment, once the world me­dia con­verges on the coun­try and starts send­ing out dis­patches, there will be op-eds, talk­ing heads on tele­vi­sion, so­cial me­dia de­bates, pres­sure will be on Fifa. It is about then that we will start talk­ing se­ri­ously about 2022, and Qatar. There has been the oc­ca­sional re­port about the situation in Qatar over the past few years. But a new Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­port – re­leased on Thurs­day– is damn­ing.

“My life here is like a prison. The work is dif­fi­cult; we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I first com­plained about my situation, soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in Qatar, the man­ager said ‘if you (want to) com­plain you can but there will be con­se­quences. If you want to stay in Qatar, be quiet and keep work­ing.’ Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and con­tinue work­ing.”

T h a t ’ s a me t a l - worker at K h a l i f a In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium, the grand struc­ture be­ing re - built in Doha, which is what Amnesty’s study fo­cused on.

The re­searchers spoke to 132 mi­grant con­struc­tion work­ers and 99 oth­ers work­ing in As­pire Zone, within which the sta­dium is sit­u­ated. These 231 men – 90% of them are from South Asia: In­dia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pak­istan, etc – re­ported the fol­low­ing about their work con­di­tions:

Squalid and cramped ac­com­mo­da­tion

Pay­ing large fees ($500 to $4300) to re­cruiters in their home coun­tries to get jobs in Qatar – law in Qatar pro­hibits charg­ing mi­grant work­ers re­cruit­ment fees

Be­ing de­ceived as to pay or type of work – all but six of were draw­ing salaries lower than promised when they ar­rived, some­times by half

Not be­ing paid for sev­eral months

Em­ploy­ers not giv­ing or re­new­ing res­i­dence per­mits, leav­ing them at risk of de­ten­tion and de­por­ta­tion as ‘ab­sconded’ work­ers 6 Em­ploy­ers con­fis­cat­ing work­ers’ pass­ports and not is­su­ing exit per­mits so they can’t leave the coun­try

Be­ing threat­ened for com­plain­ing about their con­di­tions

The root prob­lem is the Qatari Kafa la spon­sor­ship sys­tem, which en­ables em­ploy­ers to ex­er­cise sig­nif­i­cant con­trol over the lives of mi­grant work­ers. What it leads to, and Amnesty aren’t the only ones talk­ing about this, is forced labour – prac­ti­cally bonded labour.

In Qatar, work on all World Cup sites is car­ried out un­der the Supreme Com­mit­tee for De­liv­ery and Legacy, and the As­pire Zone Foun­da­tion op­er­ates on be­half of it.

In 2014, the Supreme Com­mit­tee es­tab­lished the Work­ers’ Wel­fare Stan­dards for World Cup sites, and this is men­tioned in work con­tracts for the sites. These stan­dards, how­ever, ex­ist mainly on pa­per.

“All of the ac­com­mo­da­tion sites were clearly in breach of both Qatari law and the Supreme Com­mit­tee’s Work­ers’ Wel­fare Stan­dards,” says the re­port. “Some of the men in­ter­viewed by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional were later moved to bet­ter ac­com­mo­da­tion. Some com­pa­nies sub­se­quently re­turned pass­ports to their em­ploy­ees; how­ever, this ap­pears to have only taken place af­ter Amnesty In­ter­na­tional wrote to the com­pa­nies.” The other good news is Law No. 21 of 2015 – which will re­place the Kafala, and al­low work­ers to ap­peal a spon­sor’s re­fusal of exit per­mits – but it will come into ef­fect only in De­cem­ber 2016. Now we come to Fifa. If they didn’t know, de­spite all re­ports warn­ing them, that much of Qatar’s World Cup readi­ness de­pended on ex­ploited mi­grant work­ers, they had huge blinkers on. More to the point, they were aware, but took hardly a step to ad­dress the is­sues. Re­mem­ber Brazil 2014? In early 2013, Maya Ku­mari Sharma, the Nepal am­bas­sador to Qatar, said the coun­try had be­come an “open jail” for work­ers from her coun­try. She was re­called soon af­ter. The In­dian em- bassy in Qatar has the num­ber of deaths of In­dian na­tion­als, in­clud­ing mi­grant work­ers, in 2015 at over 250. It’s a coun­try that might well have ‘bought’ the World Cup if even half the re­ports of cor­rup­tion in Fifa are true – on the face of it, they seem to be.

Football is about peo­ple. Both Rus­sia and Qatar have anti-ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity laws. Sepp Blat­ter’s quip – for which he later apol­o­gised – that gay fans “should re­frain from sex­ual ac­tiv­ity” in Qatar hardly spoke well of Fifa’s com­mit­ment to LGBT rights. Fifa pay lip ser­vice to var­i­ous is­sues, but Brazil 2014, Rus­sia 2018 and, es­pe­cially, Qatar 2022 paint a pretty grim pic­ture of its hu­man rights record.

It might not be too late to re­open the bid­ding for 2022. At any rate, there is time yet for Fifa to take the long-pend­ing steps nec­es­sary to en­sure that the tour­na­ment they own is no longer stained with the blood of ex­ploited mi­grant work­ers.

Shamya Das­gupta is Se­nior

Edi­tor, Wis­den In­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.