The FIFA Executive Committee voted in Zurich on December 2, 2010 to award Qatar the hosting privileges of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, chairman of the Qatar bid, thanked FIFA for the opportunity and promised that they make FIFA proud and not let them down. In the time that has elapsed since the successful bid for the 2022 World Cup hosting privileges, however, at least 1,200 construction workers have already been found dead. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) if the trend continues, more than 4,000 workers will have died before the Qatar World Cup 2022 takes place.
For comparison, the construction for the 2014 World Cup being hosted in Brazil this summer ended with only six workers dead. Sochi, Russia’s resort city and host of the 2018 World Cup has had 60 deaths due to construction done for that event. The report from the ITUC indicates that the 1,200 workers dead are migrant workers from Nepal and India. The figures reported from both the Nepalese embassy and the Indian embassy support the figures from the ITUC statement.
Workers on the construction site have told reporters that they have been treated like animals. They indicate that they must live like livestock in a stable under squalid conditions and that they are routinely denied payment for work. In additional to the withheld pay, the employees have told of being denied rest and food during labor in 122 degree heat. There have been reports that their passports have been confiscated to ensure the migrant laborers do not leave Qatar. The Qatar World Cup construction situation which already has 1,200 workers dead has been referred to as modern day slavery.
The Qatar World Cup committee denied the death-toll numbers as stated. While the Qatari committee indicates their awareness of construction process issues, they also state that changes cannot be made overnight. In a released statement they indicate that while the figures are both misleading and incorrect, the construction issues will be addressed and the committee for the World Cup has the commitment and the will to see it through.
These reports follow on the heels of a recent call from Amnesty International to FIFA regarding the possible abuses of the construction worker’s human rights. A representative from Amnesty International said that FIFA, the governing body of the sport and the group who awarded Qatar the ability to host a World Cup event, was involved in the issues whether they approve or not. The president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter stated on Friday that the organization does own some responsibility for the situation. However, Blatter did not give an indication that the organization would intervene. Blatter said that the responsibility is both Qatar’s and those companies who have employed the workers.
A meeting is scheduled for today between FIFA and the ITUC in response to the recent reports on the working conditions. FIFA has dismissed all allegations that there have been talks about changing the place of the tournament for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. There will, however, be a vote in 2015 to determine if the event will be changed to the winter season in order to avoid the difficult summer heat. That decision will have wide ranging implications. Qatar originally promised to hold the event in the summer as scheduled, hoping to use cooling systems but has since abandoned that idea. The construction being done now for the scheduled 2022 World Cup in Qatar already has 1,200 workers dead with the possibility of more in the future. The decision of FIFA to allow Qatar to host the event has been widely criticized from the start but FIFA has no plans to reverse their decision at this time.
By Dee Mueller