Deadly conditions in Qatar's World Cup venues exposed

Investigations find that abuse is rife on Qatar's FIFA World Cup building sites

Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar's selection as the 2022 World Cup host nation in 2010. AP
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Qatar's attempts to white-wash its World Cup building programme have been exposed as a series of deadly empty promises by a German investigation into the country's pledges.

Despite Doha's radical commitments that the 2022 event would not be constructed at the cost of human lives, a German broadcaster reported that a scaffolder from Nepal became the latest victim of the rush to erect stadium complexes earlier this month.

An undercover reporter for Deutsche Welle (DW) talked to members of the local workforce who had passports taken away by firms involved in the project and others who were forced to work during specially designated rest periods at the hottest point of the day.

The claims, on Thursday, raise awkward questions for the International Trades Union Congress (ICTU)  and its president Sharan Burrow, who in April this year led a conference in Qatar to praise Doha's approach. The trades union umbrella body preceded its trip with an about-turn on criticism of Qatar despite a noticeable lack of evidence produced to show that Doha was sincere in its commitments.

Doha's promise of reforms of the Kafala labour system was also instrumental in securing the opening of an office in Doha by the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO's representative, Houtan Homayunpour, did not produce evidence of improvement but reiterated to the programmer that "change is coming".

That is not the view of Mohammed Akram, an Indian national who is working on the Qatar Railways metro project and who is not in possession of his passport.

"The employer confiscated it the moment we arrive. I am hearing from you for the first time that I can keep my passport," he told DW.

"In the Barawa camp, most workers say their passports remain confiscated," the report goes on. "Akram's roommate, Wasim Khan, is already debating whether to pack his bags and go back to India. He arrived in Qatar six months ago and says life in the camp is unbearable."

He told DW: "A dog's life is better in my village. I am drenched in sweat all day. It's so hot that my head spins."

A separate visit to Qatar Education City Stadium, which is being built to host 40,000 fans during the tournament, revealed that workers could be spotted on site at a time of day when Qatar has promised that labourers would be permitted to down tools.

"DW saw over a dozen workers at work here between 11.30am and 3pm, hours designated as a rest period by the state of Qatar between June 15 and August 31, the hottest time of the year," the channel said.


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It pointed out that temperatures at the time were touching 50C in the country.

That is a clear violation of the commitments that the ILO and ICTU claimed to have obtained before making their endorsements of Qatar. “Hours of work will be regulated and they will have a day off,” said Mrs Burrow. “They too will have a complaint mechanism if that’s not adhered to.”

The ICTU has not responded to a request for comment from The National.

The Qataris claimed to have 400 inspectors working to stamp out abuse but the Germans found it readily by driving around the building sites.

As many as 500 workers a year die on Qatari building sites and three-fifths of deaths are never explained.


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