Spotlight back on workers rights in Qatar
As the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar has attracted unprecedented international attention and scrutiny, especially for the treatment of its vast migrant worker population.
After the issue escalated last year and the country received a severe backlash, Qatar acknowledged that there was a problem. It promised to introduce new regulations and reforms to ensure that workers in the country are treated fairly and provided with better facilities.
However, a year on, the country continues to be mired in the same contentious situation.
In a scathing report last month, Amnesty International said Qatar had not made any “significant advances” to improve the lives of the 1.5 million migrant workers in the country.
Out of the nine migrant labour rights issues highlighted, the report said late “limited progress” had been made on five, while authorities had “failed to make any improvements” in the other four.
“Without prompt action, the pledges Qatar made last year are at serious risk of being dismissed as a mere public relations stunt to ensure the Gulf state can cling on to the 2022 World Cup,” said Amnesty Researcher Mustafa Qadri.
The report also urged FIFA to pressurise the Gulf state to do more. “FIFA has yet to demonstrate any real commitment to ensuring Qatar 2022 is not built on a foundation of exploitation and abuse,” Qadri said.
However, Qatar rebutted the report, with a statement from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs stating that “significant changes” had been made in the country. The ministry said it had increased the number of labour inspectors; launched a wage protection system and an e-payment system to ensure salaries are paid on time; and provided for better accommodation facilities.
Qatar still has close to seven years before the World Cup, but if it truly wants to draw the crowds and ensure a smooth and unforgettable tournament, it needs to do much more to convince the world that it does not violate the rights of those helping build the country.