As if the obvious concerns about hosting a global sporting event in searing desert temperatures and in a country with a controversial contemporary human rights record weren’t problems enough, the Guardian has exposed systematic abuses of the immigrant workforce constructing World Cup infrastructure.
If only the Guardian had been so critical of Qatar before it was awarded the World Cup. Instead, the paper despatched a wide-eyed reporter on an all-expenses paid jolly to the Arab state, where she proceeded to write the kind of glowing endorsement her hosts from the Qatar bid team could barely have dreamed of:
"In-between games, fabulous beach-front hotels, ancient souks, modern shopping malls and the capital's excellent Museum of Islamic Arts should provide high calibre relaxation. Slightly more adventurous types might visit the Al Maha sanctuary, home of the rare Arabian oryx, before camping among desert dunes. With crime nearly nonexistent, Qatar is also very safe."
Safe that is unless you are being worked to death building infrastructure for the World Cup.
The Guardian now reports:
"Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses... raising serious questions about Qatar's preparations to host the 2022 World Cup. This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks."
Back In 2010 the Guardian reported on the "inspired Qatari altruism" at the heart of the 2022 World Cup bid which will benefit people from poorer countries. Now it tells us about:
"Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project. Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months... Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens… Labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat."
This might sound like the wonder of hindsight but these abuses should not be a huge surprise to the Guardian. The abuse of immigrant workers in Qatar is not a new thing and certainly predates reporter Louise Taylor's 2010 puff piece in which she said it would be a "failing" of FIFA not to award Qatar the World Cup. In fact, if Taylor had consulted the most recent Amnesty International report on Qatar (Amnesty International: Human Rights in the State of Qatar 2009) at the time she was writing her piece she would have read:
"Foreign migrant workers, who make up a large proportion of Qatar's workforce, continued to be exposed to, and inadequately protected against, abuses and exploitation by employers. Women migrant domestic workers were particularly at risk of exploitation and abuses such as beatings, rape and other sexual violence. Some 20,000 workers were reported to have fled from their employers in 2007 alone due to delays in or non-payment of their wages, excessive hours and poor working conditions."
Instead, Taylor and the Guardian ignored such publicly available and clearly problematic issues in favour of doing the Qatar bid team's PR for them.