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Workers rights are trampled on for FIFA World Cup Qatar

A team of experienced inspectors investigated conditions

Qatar will be the host country for the FIFA World Cup 2022, but workers’ rights are trampled on during the construction of the necessary infrastructure and stadiums.

A team of experienced inspectors from 18 countries, including CNV Board member Bert van der Spek, was sent to Qatar to investigate.

Below follows Bert van der Spek’s report, sent from Qatar.

We were in conference with [Qatar’s] Junior Minister for Labour today, and ultimately with FIFA’s Regional General Secretary. We pointed out the very poor publicity, particularly in Europe, surrounding the shocking working conditions and housing of around 1.2 million labourers, almost all of whom are immigrants from countries such as Nepal, India, the Philippines, various African nations etc.

It was particularly notable that responsibility was mainly passed over to the employers, consisting of large (and often European) organisations such as Vinci in France and OHL in Spain. There was also a lot of media attention, including from Al-Jazeera.

The visit to the camps where thousands upon thousands of immigrants were living was initially arranged by the Institute of Human Rights. We got the impression that we were only shown the good examples, which did exist.

Although unprepared, a number of us took a taxi to visit another camp, where thousands of Indians and Nepalese were living, taking the risk that we might not be allowed in. We had with us someone who spoke Hindi.

What we found there was truly dreadful. Dogs have cleaner kennels. We entered a filthy, stinking room with 8 people crammed into it, often having to lie on the floor. The people had nothing. They would stand on a gallery, closely pressed in together. The photos show filthy toilets, washhouses and gas rings on which people would heat their food. Small creatures were swimming in the drains and there was a pervasive stench of urine.

That disease and social breakdown would be rife here, seems only logical.

We were not allowed to speak to anyone, so we invited around 40 people out of the camp in the evening to talk to us.

A young man aged 20, father to a child, had had an accident several months ago and could no longer work. He is not paid and is kept alive by his friends. His passport has been confiscated (despite the Junior Minister’s insistence that this was strictly forbidden, it would appear to be routine) by his employer, a subcontractor, leaving him with no papers and making him an illegal immigrant. In due course he may well find himself in prison, to be deported some months later. He had tears in his eyes as he told me this story. He had been here 7 years and did want to leave, but could not arrange it. He also explained that people would work 60-hour weeks for a wage of 1100 Qrial (about € 250) per month.

I will be going to the Dutch Embassy tomorrow to talk further.

The conditions here are nothing less than modern slavery. Who would want to watch a match in a stadium, knowing that many thousands are being injured and as many more will die if this continues until 2022?

Another man told us that there have been 10 fatal accidents in the 6 years he has been working here. I believe there is a need for strict and comprehensive enforcement of the legal regulations. The Junior Minister explained that there are 150 inspectors for around 1.2 million immigrant workers – a mere drop in the ocean. In that situation, simply having the rules will not suffice.

Update

Dutch Minister of Social Affairs Asscher has since promised in a letter that the Cabinet will collaborate with international social partners to improve the situation in Qatar.

Publicatiedatum 12 10 2013