SANTA MONICA, Calif. At least 60 migrant workers were arrested in Qatar earlier this month when they protested working under unethical and dangerous working conditions ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
After years of angst and official complaints by the large foreign worker population to FIFA, the organizer finally, according to Amnesty International, acknowledged worker abuses. In this final round of tension, Forbes reports that the workers have gone unpaid for as long as seven months, have been raped, beaten, and even died.
One system Amnesty International and other human rights groups had hoped to end in Qatar was the use of the Kafala System.
Under the Kafala System, sponsors are responsible for the migrant workers they “import” for labor. Under the system, migrant workers are unable change jobs, move freely about the country, or leave the country without the approval of their sponsor.
According to the Harvard International Review, migrant workers in the Arab states have little rights. For example, the workers are excluded from labor laws regulating minimum wage, maximum working hours, vacation, and overtime.
Since the migrant workers don’t have any rights, their employers seem to have an free-hand in the way they treat their workers. If beaten or raped, the workers have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to for help as the fear of deportation is held as leverage over their heads.
Businesses who sponsor migrant workers in Qatar have continually supported the Kafala System which in essence is akin to modern day slavery. In 2017, Qatar signed an agreement with the International Labour Organization with one of the explicit goals being the replacement of the Kafala System with contractual employment system.
While Qatar has made some headway in eliminating the Kafala System, old habits and traditions are hard to break.
Qatar has experienced a massive amount of growth in the past several years that has required workers to do the manual labor. Amnesty International estimates there are 1.7 million migrant workers in Qatar. To date, The Guardian estimates that at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in the last decade while building and improving Qatar.
Some content and information by The Guardian, Amnesty International, Harvard International Review, ABC News, The International Labour Organization.