When a country is awarded an international competition like the World Cup, it's supposed to be cause for celebration. But for the Persian Gulf country of Qatar, the planning for the 2022 World Cup has been accompanied by mounting worker deaths and a recent report projecting 4,000 migrant workers will die by the time of the first kickoff.
The projection was made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ICTU), and was based on the the rate of death over the past two years of construction. Roughly half a million workers from South Asia, including India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, have shown up in the Gulf Emirate looking for work building the hotels, stadiums and other buildings being constructed for the soccer competition, as the Guardian reported. According to a separate Guardian report, 44 Nepalese workers died from June 4 to August 8 of this year.
Why are the workers dying? There's no one clear cause, but certainly temperatures upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit are making the working conditions rather treacherous. The British paper also says it discovered employers who have withheld salaries, passports and even drinking water from the workers. As a result, many young men are dying of sudden heart attacks.
The international media -- including the Guardian and Australia's ABC News -- have reported the charges by saying the workers are being treated like "slaves." And the ITUC is pointing its finger directly at the home government. "Nothing of any substance is being done by the Qatar authorities on this issue," Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the Brussels-based organization, told the Guardian.
For its part, the international players union, FIFPro, is calling on the host country to take action. FIFPro, which represents 50,000 soccer players worldwide, issued the following statement, as was reported by Reuters: "Qatar must respect the rights of the key people who will deliver the 2022 World Cup: the workers who build the World Cup stadia and infrastructure and the professional footballers who play in them."
Qatar, a country of roughly 1.7 million citizens, is hardly a country that's strapped for resources to pay its workers. According to Forbes, it is the richest country per capita in the world. Booming oil and gas prices have helped push the figure up to $88,000.
The country's supreme committee issued a statement to the Guardian in response to the worker deaths: "Like everyone viewing the video and images, and reading the accompanying texts, we are appalled by the findings presented in the Guardian's report," a spokesman said. "There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner.