Qatar World Cup Labor Conditions Exposed, FIFA Investigation Underway

on May 19, 2015
Qatar 2022 World Cup working conditions controversy

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is going to be quite the spectacle, but behind the scenes reports have surfaced of slave-like working conditions for migrant workers hired to construct nine new stadiums. (Image: thetimes.co.uk)

Qatar is the world’s richest country, but its political monarchy is being highly criticized after media crews, invited to document new accommodations for low-paid migrant workers, instead discovered horrid living conditions for the vast majority of laborers.

Five years ago, the Middle Eastern country bordered by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf won the bidding for the 2022 World Cup amidst much speculation that the Arab monarch bribed FIFA officials, the international governing body of soccer.

To ready the country for sport’s most-watched event, Qatar promised to build nine new stadiums to accompany its three current sporting venues.

The profusion of construction jobs attracted an influx of workers from the surrounding Middle East and Asian countries, and though Qatar promised to provide sufficient living quarters for the laborers, this week the opposite was documented.

Workers’ Rights Groups Steaming

Temperatures for the World Cup played in the fall will average in the high 80s and 90s, another concern among many soccer associations. But temperatures now through the summer months will eclipse 110 degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis, making the working environment not only hot, but also very humid.

This week a BBC media crew said they were arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned for filming working and housing conditions near the capital city of Doha, an area that has been criticized for poor treatment of workers.

Following the crew’s release after spending two nights in prison, the Qatar government claimed it planned on showing the media not only the new worker residences, but also those that have been condemned.

“Perhaps anticipating that the government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour,” the statement read. 

Advocates for workers’ rights are understandably outraged, with the International Trade Union calling Qatar a “slave state,” and the Human Rights Watch reporting unpaid wages, salary reductions, and crowded and unsanitary labor camps.

Though the vast majority of workers arrive in Qatar on their own free will, the working conditions and living quarters have been vastly misrepresented according to reports.

BBC reporter Mark Lobel writes that a man from Nepal paid $600 to arrange for his visa and employment in Qatar, promised to earn $300 a month only to discover his real salary would be $165 per 30 days. To protect employers, Qatar also enforces a strict five-year time period where a worker can’t switch jobs.

FIFA will investigate what exactly happened to the BBC reporters, saying in a statement, “Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to FIFA and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves.”

World Cup Controversy

Nearly four billion people tune in for the World Cup every four years, and billions of dollars, euros, pounds and more are wagered on the month-long tournament. Of course, any event of such magnitude inevitably comes with its share of controversy.

2010: Hosted by South Africa, plans to slaughter a cow at each stadium prior to the Cup generated much concern among animal rights groups. One ox was killed at Johannesburg Soccer City stadium.

2014: Many European soccer associations despised FIFA choosing Brazil as the host country, the second consecutive World Cup to be played outside of Europe. Eight workers also died during the construction of the stadiums.

2014: As far as Vegas is concerned, no World Cup controversy has caused more headlines than Paul Phua’s arrest for operating a betting ring from his Caesars residence. A judge ruled the FBI’s hidden camera search was illegal, but charges against the high-stakes poker player are still ongoing.

2018: Like the Winter Olympics, the next World Cup has been criticized for awarding Russia the tournament, a country accused of discriminating against LGBT people.