As the soccer World Cup kickstarted in Qatar on Sunday, an international Catholic group has sought justice and prayers for hundreds of Asian migrants who died as Qatar prepared for the once-in-four-year global event.
Newsroom (27/11/2022 9:06 PM, Gaudium Press) — “Bread 4 Today” prayer group of the Redemptorist Congregation in Oceania published a video titled ‘World Cup Prayer’ on their YouTube channel, which speaks against migrant worker abuse, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and CO2 emissions.
The prayer released on Nov. 19 includes words of solidarity from the group towards the abused migrant workers and is now promoted on social media with the hashtag #PayUpFIFA.
“The darkness found in the cheap, disposable immigrant workforce that labored to build these modern-day pyramids.”
“We pray with Pope Francis for an economy whose activity is in service of the human being, not only the few, but all, especially the poor,” the prayer read.
“As the World Cup opens, migrant workers and their families, players, and fans will be feeling the terrible weight of the human cost of the tournament,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The official also pointed out FIFA’s failure to compensate the workers despite making billions of dollars in revenue.
He said that their construction work will become “reminders of the migrant workers who built and delivered the games but did not receive their wages or died with no compensation for their families.”
HRW report summarizes the various cases of abuse faced by migrant workers.
Citing 2021, the Guardian investigative report HRW stated that between 2010 and 2020, there were over 6,751 deaths in Qatar of people from five South Asian Countries, which were neither categorized by occupation nor work.
In 2010-2020, 69 percent of the deaths of migrant workers were from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
The report highlighted that in many cases, the migrant workers’ deaths were attributed to “natural causes” such as cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and sickness, which make it impossible to understand if the deaths were due to working conditions.
Many such deaths were categorized as non-work-related, barring many families from receiving the compensation they deserve.
Wage theft has also been rampant in the nation as millions of labourers came to the country after paying huge fees and selling off their assets.
In an August 2020 report, HRW found that 93 migrant workers from 60 companies reported some form of wage abuse from January 2019 to May 2020.
The most common forms of abuse reported by the workers included unpaid overtime, arbitrary deductions, delayed wages, withholding of wages, unpaid wages, or inaccurate earnings.
The Qatari government launched a Wage Protection System (WPS) to curb such malpractices, ensure salaries are credited by direct bank transfer and impose sanctions on employers for violation.
However, the system has remained as more of a monitoring method only with glaring gaps in an oversight capacity.
The legal minimum wage a month in Qatar is 1,000 Qatari Rials (US$274.69). Migrant workers have reported working shifts that extend anywhere between 14-18 hours a day.
The government also launched a Worker’s Support and Insurance Fund (WSIF) to pay any worker wages that they are owed when companies fail to pay or go out of business.
Based on the data provided by Qatar’s Ministry of Labour, in July 2022, 36,373 labourers from 17 nations inside and outside Qatar were compensated for a total of 597.5 million Qatari Rial (US$164 million).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported that by Sept. 30, 2022, this increased to over US$320 million.
Basanta Sunuwar, a Nepali who worked for six years in Qatar, told HRW that he is lucky to return alive and that those who have lost their lives should get just compensation.
“They [the laborers] gave their labor and in exchange, they should get their rights,” he says. “What is their right now that they have lost their lives? It is compensation. This is my humble request to FIFA and Qataris, as a football fan.”
A 2019 study in the journal Cardiology revealed that “as many as 200 of the 571 cardiovascular deaths [of Nepali workers] during 2009-17 could have been prevented” with effective heat protection measures.
In an October 2022 report, HRW states that there have been 11 cases of ill-treatment in detention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people between 2019 and 2022.
It said that Qatar Preventive Security Department forces have arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention, including six cases of “severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022″.
As a requirement for their release, security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government facility.
The Qatar authorities ruled out the presence of “gay conversion” centres in the country.
Environmentalists have also voiced their concerns over the carbon emissions and environmental impact created by the large carbon footprint that the infrastructure will leave.
FIFA estimates the 2022 World Cup will produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in its report.
The report states that more than half of the anticipated CO2 output will result from fans, media, and team travel.
- Raju Hasmukh with files from UCAN News