From the TUC

FIFA’s magic wand tries to vanish the blood on Qatar’s hands

13 Nov 2014, By

Qatar might be feeling pretty pleased with itself today. A FIFA investigation into possible corruption, conducted by the former New York district attorney Michael García has, after he spent 18-months scrutinising the behaviour of all the bidding nations, found only minor concerns that “were not serious enough to warrant re-opening the process”.

For those of us campaigning to hold Qatar to account for the deaths of hundreds of workers, this is like proclaiming the innocence of a speeding driver involved in a fatal smash up because it turns out he obtained his driving licence legally.

FIFA are already complacently looking to the future, and “continuing the preparations for … Qatar 2022, which are already well underway.”

This is a future that may be denied to thousands of migrant workers brought to Qatar to put those preparations in place. Qatar needs an astonishing amount of new infrastructure to host the World Cup – the final itself will take place in a city that hasn’t been built yet – and relies on over a million workers from Asia and Africa to make it happen. The country’s sponsorship system, known as kafala, ties workers to a single employer who then enjoys shocking control over them. In the face of poor conditions, and even physical abuse, workers cannot leave their employer for another job, or even escape back to their homeland unless that same employer gives his permission.

With scant labour inspections and enforcement, as well as opaque labour resolution procedures, Qatar does almost nothing to protect those making the World Cup possible. Official figures from the independent DLA Piper report show that 964 construction workers, from India and Nepal alone, died between 2012 and 2013, making it likely at a further 400 have already died this year, with thousands more likely to die before the World Cup starts.

FIFA and Qatar have managed to engage in a feat of misdirection that a stage magician would be proud of. Over the last few months the press has obsessively discussed the heat, only to find that European clubs – seen as the biggest obstacle to moving the Cup to a cooler time of year – will be happy with a spring timetable when temperatures will be no worse than in previous tournaments. Now we seen corruption wiped off the charge sheet by the García’s Ethics Committee report, and suddenly Qatar finds the smell of roses drifting off its previously noxious reputation.

But Qatar still has a huge case to answer, and no amount of hocus pocus from FIFA’s magicians can make it go away. The corruption was always an unproven allegation. The heat was always just a technical and logistical challenge. On the other hand, we have full, corroborated proof that hundreds of migrant workers return home in body bags, despite the best efforts of the Qatari regime to prevent the plight of migrant workers being revealed . Fixing this requires not a wand, but serious, dedicated reform of the country’s labour laws, as well as open and honest debate, and Qatar has shown only the slightest willingness to carry any of it out.

Amnesty International’s latest update on progress towards fixing this undisputed scandal reveals the snail’s pace at which Qatar is progressing towards action that would save workers from death and destitution. Hosts of promised laws remain theoretical, with not one single issue raised by DLA Piper fully resolved.

Until we start to see evidence that Qatar is serious about protecting its workers, this should be the number one issue on the charge sheet. Qatar’s negligence is killing people. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.


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