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Qatar Unfit To Hold World Cup

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Qatar Unfit To Hold World Cup Until Feudal Regime Improves Lot Of 1.4 Million Migrant Workers Abused Under Bonded Labour System GMB CEC Told 

Health and safety on sites is not enforced and on average one worker a day is being killed with countless others injured and delegation told of container loads of bodies being sent back to Nepal.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, took part in a four day visit by an eleven member ITUC international fact finding delegation from 29th November to 2nd December 2013 to establish if Qatar is a fit and proper place to hold the 2022 World Cup.

The delegation is reporting back to Governments in Australia, Austria, Denmark and the UK as well as the International Labour Organisation, FIFA and the UN Human Rights Rapporteur and trade unions. Bert Schouwenburg has now submitted a written report on the visit to the GMB Central Executive Council (CEC).

Bert Schouwenburg in his report said “During our four day visit the eleven member international delegation held worker hearings. We were shocked by the increasing numbers of women and children in detention centre and rising discontent and unrest of workers in squalid labour camps.

To fund the construction boom in Doha, a small army of middlemen import labour from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines with the promise of lucrative contracts that would enable workers to send money home to their impoverished families.

Once they arrive in Qatar, any illusions they may have had about decent work are swiftly dispelled. There they encounter the notorious “kefala” system whereby their employers have complete control over their movements and decide if and when they can leave the country. This is an evil and wicked form of bonded labour that is at the root of the exploitation we found in Qatar.   

Contrary to Qatari law, which is rarely enforced, workers do excessive hours, often for no extra pay, in temperatures that can reach up to 50 degrees in the summer months. They are housed in squalid encampments that do not meet even the most basic standards of hygiene, cleanliness and comfort. The opportunities for recreation or relaxation are non-existent and in a blatant display of racial prejudice reminiscent of apartheid, Asian labourers are denied access to public places. Health and safety on the construction sites is not enforced and on average one worker a day is being killed with countless others injured. We have heard of container loads of bodies being sent back to Nepal.

The situation for migrant women is even worse. Employed as domestic workers, some have found themselves in deportation centres after being raped and made pregnant by their Qatari hosts. In Qatari law, it is a criminal offence for women to become pregnant outside of wedlock. The deportation centres are overcrowded cells with scores of women and babies living in appalling circumstances and, in a Kafkaesque twist of irony, with no prospect of actually being deported, their passports having been retained by their sponsors under kefala.

Qatar is little more than a medieval family business run by the Emir and his family for their own aggrandisement. Per capita, the 300,000 strong indigenous population is the richest in the world but their skyscraper society is built on the broken dreams and broken bones of exploited migrant labourers.

GMB is prepared to work with UK companies operating in Qatar to build a better society but we demand as a bare minimum the following:

·    An end to “kefala” system which is a bonded labour system that binds the migrant worker to the employer.

·    Freedom of association and the right to form and join trade unions.

·    A legally enforceable minimum wage.

·    Adherence to core ILO conventions for decent work.

·    A functioning disputes resolution procedure.

·    Replace the discredited “middlemen” with reputable international recruitment agencies

It will take more than the release of footballer Zahir Belounis to convince the world that Qatar is a fit and proper place to hold the 2022 World Cup. FIFA’s decision to give the tiny desert state such a prestigious competition owes more to the persuasive powers of Qatari money rather than any rational decision based on Sepp Blatter’s desire to spread the gospel of the global game. Given that one of FIFA’s key sponsors is Heineken, they will certainly be reaching areas other beers cannot reach in a place where it is illegal to import alcohol.

From a trade union perspective, it is irrelevant whether or not FIFA is stupid enough or corrupt enough to destroy their premier event by putting it in Qatar.

However, we firmly believe that there should be no World Cup there until the Qatari regime takes action to improve the lot of 1.4 million migrant workers being abused under the notorious kefala system whereby their employers have complete control over their movements and decide if and when they can leave the country.

I am writing again to Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Laing O’Rourke, Interserve, Kier Group, Vinci, Galliford Try (Qatar), ISG Middle East, Amey, Mace, Bouygues UK, BAM and Costain to seek their support for this position.”

End

Contact GMB Bert Schouwenburg 07974 251 764 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823 or ITUC Gemma Swart +32 479 06 41 63 (gemma.swart@ituc-csi.o

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