Migrant Workers’ Condition in Qatar Improving, Still Problematic: FIFA

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Thursday, February 26, 2015

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said Wednesday that there were still problems with the working conditions of migrants building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup but he was "very happy" with steps taken by Qatar.

"It's clear there are problems and things to be solved," Valcke told a Doha press conference.

He said that Qatar was beginning to comply with international standards, which was a "big step."

After a FIFA task force meeting decided to recommend moving the tournament to November and December 2022, Valcke visited several stadiums. “In a nutshell I am very happy with what we have seen,” he said.

Valcke said he had inspected conditions for workers on site where some improvements have reportedly been made.

However the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), has criticized FIFA claiming that it is ignoring the plights of migrants working in slave-like conditions under the Qatar kafala system — which allows employers to effectively own laborers and gives them the ability to restrict their freedom to leave the country — with its suggestion that the 2022 World Cup be played in November and December.

Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, over 1,400 construction workers from India and Nepal have died and it is predicted that if Qatar does not undertake radical reforms, another 4,000 will die before construction is finished.

An investigation published by Britain's The Guardian newspaper in 2013 found that Nepali migrants had died at a rate of one a day during the preceding summer in Qatar where temperatures can reach around 50 degrees Celsius.

The investigation found evidence that thousands of Nepali, who make up the largest group of laborers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labor Organization, the report said. Some workers had not been paid for months, were denied drinking water and had their passports confiscated.

According to the report, the allegations suggested a chain of exploitation that painted an “overall picture of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world's most popular sporting tournament.”

In May, Qatar vowed to to reform the kafala system, but an Amnesty report in November claimed the country’s efforts were minimal.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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