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The True Cost of Football

People are dying for YOUR entertainment.

After an investigation, The Guardian has claimed 6,500 migrant workers have died in work-related accidents since the World Cup 2022 tournament was awarded to Qatar in 2010 working on the infrastructure necessary to stage it. Qatar has been dependent on 2 million migrant workers, making up about 95 percent of its total labour force. Responding to the Guardian report, Qatar’s government said a “very small percentage” of over 2 million expatriates in the state had ‘passed away’ between 2011 and 2019.

 

 Ever since the award was made, there have been stories appearing about the Gulf state’s alleged maltreatment of workers. Some are being subjected to forced labour, they can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country and they often wait months to get paid. Indeed, we are witnessing modern day slavery, with workers having their passports confiscated by employers and should they want to leave both the work and Qatar, they have to get an “exit permit” approved by their company, requests often ignored, and, indeed, followed up with the threat that the workers can’t leave until their contract is up, which is usually open ended and tied in to the completion of the ‘project’ which could be up to a further two years.

 

In fact, one of the companies supplying workers to the building of the stadium subject its ‘employees’ to forced labour, by threatening to deduct pay if they refuse to work because of their conditions, or even handed over to the police for deportation without receiving the pay they are owed. Despite a handful of reforms in recent years, withheld and unpaid wages, as well as other wage abuses, are persistent and widespread across at least 60 employers and companies in Qatar.

 

The use of the Kafala system is wide spread in Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, and all Arab Gulf states but Iraq and is one of the factors facilitating this abuse. The Kafala system is a legal framework defining the relationship between migrant workers and their employers and was created to supply cheap, plentiful labour. Under this system, the state gives local individuals or companies sponsorship permits to employ foreign labourers.

 

Under this system, workers have no protection under the host country’s labour law. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and denies them such basic rights as the ability to join a union. Also, because workers’ employment and residency visas are linked and only sponsors can renew or terminate them, the system gives private citizens—rather than the state—control over workers’ legal statuses, creating a power over the worker that sponsors can, and do, exploit.

 

In most situations, workers need their sponsor’s permission to transfer jobs, end employment, and enter or exit the host country. In 2017, Qatar promised to abolish the Kafala system, and while the introduction of some measures has chipped away at it, the system still grants employers unchecked power and control over migrant workers.

 

Meanwhile FIFA (football’s global governing body), its sponsors and the construction companies involved are set to make massive financial gains from the human misery this tournament has engendered. It is down to the individual countries who are participating in this exploitive tournament based on vanity and profit to stand against it. Last evening, Norway’s players marked the start of their qualification attempt for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by protesting against the abuse of migrant workers human rights before kick off in their opening match against Gibraltar on Wednesday.

 

Will this solitary protest make any difference? Probably not in isolation. What is needed is a collective message from ALL participating countries, along the lines of a collective vote of no confidence in a governing body that has sold its soul many years ago, but instead of standing up for a future where they could be a guiding light, instead revert to type, and choose money and prestige (perceived) over the lives of their fellow human beings.

 

A simple message, boycott the Qatar World Cup. Are they brave enough? You already know the answer.

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