The news: Although the World Cup in Qatar will not take place until 2022, migrant construction workers have already began building its infrastructure. Construction can be a dangerous job, but it’s been so dangerous in Qatar that 185 workers died in 2013 while on this project.
The Guardian reported that the 2013 death toll is expected to rise as new cases come to light. They added that this could end up changing how migrant workers are treated from here on out, putting pressure on both the country as well as FIFA to force meaningful change.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressed in an executive committee meeting that this issue will not be ignored by the association. The Qatar Ministry of Labour hired DLA Piper, a law firm, to review these cases. Hassan al-Thawadi, the chief executive of the World Cup organizing committee, promised that the 2022 World Cup will not be “built on the blood of innocents.”
The background: Qatar is building nine new stadiums and renovating three others as part of the 2022 World Cup. Migrant workers are primarily responsible for the construction, and according to Amnesty International, there are about 1.35 million of these people working in Qatar, compiling for about 94% of the country’s total workforce.
In light of another report from the Guardian that depicted Qatar working conditions as "modern day slavery,” Blatter agreed to meet with the new emir of Qatar over the issue, but he made the assertion that the World Cup construction had no direct influence over it. He also didn’t please those who demand change when he added that there’s still plenty of time to make resolutions.
Ramesh Badel, an attorney who represents Nepalese workers in Qatar, 70 of which who have died while working on this project since the start of 2012, holds the soccer association accountable for their deaths: “FIFA should take responsibility to restore the rights of the workers themselves. All this construction is happening because of their World Cup. If there is slavery, how can they just keep quiet?”
The takeaway: According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), up to 4,000 people could die before the 2022 World Cup. A related statement from the ITUC read, “FIFA’s offer of only a ‘courtesy visit’ to the emir of Qatar is totally inadequate and fails to put in place any plan to stop more workers dying.”
It’s reasonable to agree with Blatter that eight years is a long time, but it’s certainly not reasonable to put a timeframe on when we can prevent people from dying.