Ever since Qatar was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup back in 2010, there has been growing scrutiny over the treatment of the migrant workers who are building the stadia.
Building 8 new stadiums, 54 team camps and overhauling the infrastructure is no easy feat, especially combined with the plan to build a whole new city that will host the World Cup final.
Qatar are heavily reliant on their migrant population, with 1.7 of their 2.3 million residents coming from overseas, especially India, Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh.
However there have been ongoing concerns surrounding the migrant workers and their rights whilst working in Qatar, with many international organisations being concerned about the conditions and safety of workers during the construction projects.
The Supreme Committee for Deliver and Legacy, who are the organisation responsible for delivering the on-time constructions for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, signed a contract earlier this month which will see them inspect World Cup sites from January 2017.
With the help of the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), a global trade union that looks after construction workers, it is hoped that this agreement will protect foreign workers by conducting health and safety training and will review and assess welfare forums.
However, this deal will be limited as the initial focus will be on projects where the headquarters are based in countries where the BWI has representation, so their are still concerns that the aforementioned Indian, Nepalese, Filipino and Bangladeshi workers might still be prone to exploitation.
In March this year, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) requested that Qatar make significant improvements. This was following reports that a number of migrant workers were stranded for months without pay and had their passports taken away from them. The accommodation was also poor with there being underlying sanitary issues.
This triggered the Qatari government to promise to end the Kafala system. This used to permit a migrant worker to only work for their visa sponsor and consequently restricted them leaving the country without their employers’ approval. These very welcome changes are reportedly coming into effect from December 2016.
Of course there are other progresses too, such as the creation of Labour City which is a mini-city hosting rooms of a decent size without overcrowding, a health centre, shops, computer rooms, lounge facilities and canteens. There was also the advancement of the number of workers who were paid via electronic bank transfer, doubling to 900,000.
Qatar themselves have taken the initiative on the issue, and by the end of December 2016 they want “100 percent compliance” from businesses which will ensure that the migrant workers receive their salaries on time. All companies are expected to sign up by the end of the year, with the Qatari government contacting those companies who have not yet led by example.
There can definitely be visible strides that Qatar have taken to improve the rights of the migrant workers in the country, and other strides that have been forced on them by international organisations and pressure groups.
The world’s spotlight is shining on Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the organisers are determined that their winning bid acts as a catalyst for change for the better and foreign workers are treated fairly and with respect & dignity.