A new football stadium emerges from the desert at every bend, each with a futuristic twist on the country’s indigenous culture. One is reminiscent of a dhow boat, in a region that has long been recognized for pearl and fishing.
A second stadium is modelled after the “gahfiya,” a woven cap commonly worn by people in the region under the headscarves. Each Qatar world cup stadium is sought to be a reflection of its history and culture. The stadiums also expose the country’s global ambitions.
However, each stadium has been constructed with the assistance of a large number of foreign laborers. Many of these workers are from poor countries in Asia and Africa. Following multiple allegations claiming severe maltreatment and exploitation, the little Persian Gulf country has launched a media attack.
More than 6,500 foreign laborers have lost their lives in Qatari stadium construction projects since 2010. The majority of the laborers were engaged in low-paid, hazardous activity that was frequently performed in high heat.
Qatari officials reject the number claiming the number of people who died directly at work is only three. They also confirmed 35 non-work-related deaths, while providing no further details.
“When a sensational headline comes out such as that, I understand people’s concerns. As human beings, we all have a responsibility to be concerned about such matters, I’m fully on board with that. But I think it’s also very important to find out the facts on the ground,” a local official told the reporters referring to the death toll.
The condition of workers in Qatar World Cup projects, nevertheless, is full of ambiguities. The reason behind loads of death were never divulged and Qatar officials refrains from giving details. Besides, the number of death toll is not the only global concern over Qatar Stadium Projects.
Lack of Transparency
Apart from the deaths linked with the 2022 World Cup, there are loads of other issues that have put Qatar in the limelight during the last decade. Hundreds of of employees working in stadium building projects have allegedly been exposed to forced labor and human rights abuse.
Human rights organizations have discovered that migrant workers have suffered withheld or unfulfilled wage deals and forced labor. They also worked long hours in extreme heat, intimidated by the employers. The one-sided contracts forced the workers to continue their job while dissatisfied with the overall condition in stadium constructions.
Qatar’s migrant labour force numbers more than two million individuals, accounting for 95 percent of the country’s workforce. According to official statistics, the Middle East, particularly Persian Gulf states, has one of the largest proportions of migrant workers in the world.
The workers with European or Arab passports, according to a UN report in 2019, obtain greater contract advantages than others. South Asian and Sub-Saharan African nationalities with the same profession and expertise receive lower wages and more difficult working condition.
Following the release of UN report, Qatar has implemented a number of labor reform initiatives in stadium construction plans. Many of these measures originate from an agreement between Doha and the International Labour Organization to help safeguard employees’ interests.
The dissolution of the controversial Qatari sponsorship system, kafala, was the primary result of the agreement. This permits migrant employees to seek other job opportunities before the expiration of their contracts.
The minimum wage has also gone through a reform to wipe of the discrimination already existed between the migrant and non-migrant workers.
The changes, however, represent a face cover in response to the widespread criticism over the workers’ condition after UN report. Each world cup stadium has claimed irretrievable lives, families, and hopes.