As the economic processes of globalization destabilize traditional modes of life all over the planet, millions of impoverished people –primarily from the global south— are forced to leave their old lives behind and seek a livelihood overseas. Their destination is determined as much by choice as by the vagaries of the global labour market.


These days, much of the demand for foreign labour comes from the Gulf, where wealthy oil-kingdoms employ millions of migrants, leveraging their precarious and semi-legal existence in order to amp up economic exploitation and suppress dissent.


Qatar, much like its neighbours, has felt the effects of an economic boom fostered by the profitable combination of oil and repression. Qatar has capitalized on its success by staging a costly and effective campaign to secure the 2022 FIFA World Cup nomination, the Emir has promised that the country will spend literally hundreds of billions of dollars on new sporting facilities.


In a nation where already 90 per cent of the workforce consists of migrant labourers, it was inevitable that this massive undertaking would require the import of hundreds of thousands of people.


And that is what Qatar did. By promising high wages and safe working conditions, Qatari businesses —  in collusion with the state —  lured an immense multitude from India and Nepal, thereby securing the use of their bodies and skills  to make Qatar’s FIFA dreams come true.  


Unfortunately, as many migrant workers soon found out, many of the promises made were not kept. Instead of a good wage and modest but decent living, they were delivered into what amounted to little more than slavery.


According to a recent report by Amnesty International and an investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian, migrant workers in Qatar are regularly subject to: having their wages withheld by employers for months or not paid at all, forced labour where workers are made to do hard physical labour for 12+ hours while being denied water in suffocating desert heat, squalid living conditions with no working sewage system, no running water, no electricity, and ten or more workers sleeping in the same room.

 

While the majority of this exploitation occurs through private businesses and construction contractors, the system is at all points undergirded by the state - especially through the migrant worker sponsorship framework Kafala.


Established by the Qatari state to manage the large number of foreign workers, the Kafala legal regime is effectively an official sanction of slavery. According to the framework, any worker who is sponsored and employed by a Qatari business is prohibited from transferring jobs, quitting, or even leaving the country without the employer’s permission.


Since 2010, the precarious and exploitative working conditions in Qatar have led to the deaths of almost 1000 migrant workers and permanent disfiguring injuries for thousands more.


If nothing is done, human and labour rights advocates believe that 3000 more lives will be lost in one kingdom’s quest for World Cup glory.

 

Now, who’s up for watching the Manchester U match tonight?

 

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