• World Cup

Qatar hits back at 2022 slavery claims

ESPN staff
September 26, 2013
Dozens of workers are reported to have died this summer as Qatar lays the foundations for the 2022 tournament. © Getty Images

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has hit back at claims made by the Guardian that Nepalese migrant workers' lives were being put at risk as the country prepares for the World Cup.

The newspaper has obtained documents from the Nepalese embassy in Qatar's capital city, Doha, showing at least 44 workers died in a two-month spell this summer as the Gulf state puts the infrastructure in place for the tournament. The deaths were said to be predominantly down to heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also found evidence of forced labour on the World Cup infrastructure project, as well as allegations that pay has been withheld for several months and passports have been confiscated to prevent the workers leaving.

The problems with the summer heat - already a major talking point amid plans to move the World Cup to the winter for the first time in its history - are said to be posing a substantial health risk, with some workers claiming they have been refused free drinking water.

Qatar, whose immigrant workforce stands at 90%, is accused of exploiting a situation that sees Nepalese workers paying recruitment agents to secure work in the state and then being left powerless to escape the conditions. The Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, sparked a significant controversy earlier this summer when she said that the state had become "an open jail" for workers from her homeland.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said: "The evidence uncovered by The Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar. In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening."

Qatar has yet to begin work directly related to the World Cup but new cities are being created that will house stadiums to be used in the tournament.

In a recent interview with insideworldfootball.com, FIFA president Sepp Blatter had said he believed hosting the World Cup in Qatar would make a positive impact.

He said: "The Qatar World Cup promises to help unite an unstable region of the world by bringing hope and joy to millions who have suffered for decades. It will show, once again, that football is a force for good - as we have most recently demonstrated by encouraging the Palestinians and Israelis to come to Zurich and start meaningful dialogue towards reaching an historic agreement.

"We have no political ambitions, which is why we are not suspect of having a political agenda. All we want is to bring the World Cup to regions where it has never been before, and where football can help make a difference - even for a few weeks. I am a firm believer in the good of the game and what it can generate."

Meanwhile, organisers say they are 'appalled' by the findings of the Guardian.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee revealed they are 100% behind delivering the correct treatment for workers.

"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 statement said.

"There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner. The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar."

They also added they will be investigating the claims made by the newspaper.

"We firmly believe that all workers engaged on our projects, and those of the other infrastructure developers in Qatar, have a right to be treated in a manner that ensures at all times their wellbeing, safety, security, and dignity.

"This is our top priority as we begin to deliver on the promises made in our bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar."

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