Dying to Bring You the World Cup, Qatar Faces "Slavery" Charges

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 25 2013 5:50 PM

Dying to Bring You the World Cup, Qatar Faces "Slavery" Charges

When Qatar was named the host country of the 2022 World Cup almost three years ago, there were murmurs about whether it could pull it off successfully. But, that was more from the fan perspective: simmering summer heat in the country, restrictions on alcohol consumption, and other mismatched cultural norms were the biggest worries.

But, still almost a decade off, Qatar’s cup run has landed it in a new controversy: alleged labor abuses. The Guardian published an investigative piece on Wednesday documenting horrific treatment of migrant laborers in the country helping to prepare for soccer's crown jewel. The paper levies a serious charge: thousands of Nepalese workers, the country’s largest migrant community, “face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery.” According to the Guardian, during the summer heat “Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks.”

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Here are more of the abuses from the Guardian:

Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.
• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.
• 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.
• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.
• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, charged with organizing the World Cup, told the Guardian it was "deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City's construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness."

Correction (Sept. 26, 2013): The original post misstated the year that Qatar will host the World Cup, it will be held in 2022. Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, not last year, as the post originally stated.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.