The Human Costs of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Qatar has quite a reputation in mistreating its migrant workers, especially since the constructions for the World Cup 2022 began. But how does this system actually work?

By Dolores Picot

In the last couple of years a lot has been written and documented about the condition of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region that consists of six members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These reports have highlighted the inhumane working and living conditions that some of the workers have been subjected to. With the help of the international organizations as well as several non-governmental organizations, there have been considerable improvements during the last few years.

Although there is plenty of room for improvement in all the member countries, in the last two years the focus – in particular the media focus – has been on Qatar. A country rich in natural gas resources and with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, deemed by its counterparts in the GCC and by other states in the region, as one of the most liberal monarchies of the Gulf. That perception is helped by its media channel, Al Jazeera, as well as by Qatars openness to receive criticism from outside.

Due to a small population of around two million inhabitants, Qatar is heavily dependent on foreign manpower. Ninety-four percent of the total labor force is made of non-Qataris, making it the country with the highest ratio of migrants to citizens worldwide. Qatars rapid expansion as well as the exploitation of its natural resources mainly natural gas and oil, have been the constant pull factors for migrant workers originating mainly from the Asian continent. In recent years, another pull factor that has attracted a significant amount of workers is the construction of the stadiums for the FIFA World Cup that will take place in Qatar in 2022. In order to be able to build the required infrastructure to hold the World Cup the country will need to employ more than 1.5 million workers in addition to the existing workers currently employed in the construction sector.

The ‘Kafala’ system

Unfortunately, foreign migrant workers residing in Qatar are victims of a system that leaves them open to exploitation and abuse. One of the main issues that they face is related to the implementation of the ‘Kafala’ or sponsorship system that binds foreign workers to a local sponsor who can be either an individual or a local company. Once they arrived in Qatar, workers are tied to their sponsors for the duration of their stay and they cannot change their job or exit the country without their sponsor’s consent. In order to enforce this, sponsors often resort to the infamous practice of passport confiscation. The second most cited abuse of workers after the non-payment of their salaries. This practice permits abuse and allows workers to remain “trapped” in the country with very few resources at their disposal should they face any difficulties at work which is usually the case. In addition, migrant workers who frequently arrive in Qatar, indebted due to the high placement fees they had to pay to recruiters in their home countries, are struggling with employers who withhold their wages, as a way of making sure the workers are not going to quit. In some cases, employers keep up to three month’s wages. Furthermore, workers have to face long working hours and unsafe working and housing conditions, which usually include working outside during the hottest times of the day and living in cramped dormitories with little privacy.

Despite the criticism the country has received for the implications of this system of sponsorship, few things have changed since December 2010. Back then Qatar won the bid for the FIFA World Cup and the world’s media intensified its focus on the event and everything related to it, including migrant workers’ rights. Later in 2014, Qatar promised to reform the ‘kafala’ system and introduce new labour law legislation as a response to the increased pressure from the international community over serious rights abuses in the construction sector.

Death ratio of one Nepalese worker every two days

The reform plans include an increment in the fines for passport confiscation for employers; the right for workers to change employers at the end of their contract without the need to gain approval from their existing employer; a modification to the exit visa system whereby an automated system will issue an exit visa after a 72-hour grace period prior to departure and, last but not least, the introduction of a pay reform that will require the payment of wages to be done electronically in order “to ensure transparency, monitoring and timely payment.”1 Additionally, the government announced the introduction in February 2014 of the Worker’s Charter: A 50-page document describing areas in which the Qatari government plans to act in order to improve the situation for migrant workers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Despite the introduction of the charter and the government promising reforms since early 2014, it has failed to act upon them. As a result migrants have continued to struggle during the year with terrible outcomes such as a death ratio of one Nepalese worker every two days during 2014.2

In order to tackle some of the criticism the country has been receiving, earlier this year the government announced its plans to introduce the pay reform for migrant workers3 to ensure workers would be paid on time. Employers will have six months to implement the reforms, however no time frame has been set for the reforms to be introduced, which is a major drawback as the delay in the implementation allows for the continuation of violation of the rights of the workers by the employers.

What role play private sector and sending countries?

One should not forget the role of two important actors in this whole process: the private sector and the migrant sending countries. In 2011, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee4 was created to monitor the infrastructure projects related to the World Cup and make sure all obligations under the hosting agreement are being fulfilled, including, but not limited to the respect for migrant workers’ rights. Since then, several cases have been reported of migrant workers suffering human rights violations, and while there are big multinational companies involved in the process, most of them work with local subcontractors, who, as the Special Rapporteur noted in his visit to Qatar, are the ones that commit the most serious abuses of migrants. However, the creation of the Committee alone is not enough to protect, respect and remedy human rights violations that migrant workers are being victims of; the State of Qatar and the FIFA, who has agreed “to add labour related criteria to the bidding process of future FIFA World Cups,”5 together with the subcontractors as well as all the other relevant actors who are engaged in construction activities for the World Cup should ensure they are working in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In the past, sending countries had played a marginal role in the protection of their nationals abroad. However, during the last decade or so, due to the growing pressure migrant-sending countries were receiving from the international community, NGO’s and their own embassies’ personnel, they began to adopt policies to improve the situation of their migrant workforce in the GCC countries. Despite the existence of bilateral agreements between sending and receiving countries the receiving country does not always fulfill these agreements. Moreover, some sending countries are unwilling to enter in confrontations with the receiving government. They are afraid that Qatar will simply turn to other countries as a source of labour and they will remain without the economic benefits of migration they collect through remittances. It is also important to stress that by avoiding to make demands on receiving countries, sending countries show that the difficulties migrant workers have to go through in the destination country, are not a top priority in their international affairs agenda.

Human trafficking

Another major issue that Qatar faces, that it is directly linked to its faulty sponsorship system and that should be the focus of the reforms, is human trafficking. The US Department of State has downgraded Qatar to a Tier 2 watchlist in its Trafficking in Persons (TiP) Report6 last year after the country failed to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it showed unwillingness to address the issue. Meanwhile, the country remains a destination country for women and men subjected to forced labor, helped by the practices of unscrupulous sponsors.

Five years after winning the bid to host the World Cup, and more than two years since the systemic abuse of migrant workers was put in the spotlight throughout the world, Qatar has recognised the need to reform its labour laws and bring them to conformity with international legal standards that will protect migrant workers from serious human rights abuses. But so far, the government not only remains oblivious to any significant structural reforms but also on occasions fails to enforce the existing laws and regulations.

Qatar’s government has not yet taken the necessary steps that are required to afford migrant workers adequate protection against human rights abuses, including forced labour and trafficking. It remains to be seen what steps the government will take to tackle these issues in the near future. The gravity of the situation calls for the government to take immediate action to avoid having a World Cup built entirely through exploitation and forced labour and with a tremendous human cost as a result.

1 http://www.moi.gov.qa/site/english/news/2014/05/14/32204.html

2 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/23/qatar-nepal-workers-world-cup-2022-death-toll-doha

3 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/qatar-introduce-pay-reform-migrant-workers-150219111946994.html

4 Nowadays know as the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Emiri Decree No. 3, 2014

5 Statement from JérômeValcke on labour rights in Qatar6

6 http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2014/226802.html

About the author: Dolores Picot holds a M.A. in Human Rights and Democratisation from the European Inter-University Center for Human Rights and Democratization. Currently she is a legal and advocacy volunteer at HOME Singapore, an Anti human-trafficking organization that works for the well-being, justice and empowerment of migrant workers in Singapore.

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Analysis: Should Tunisia go the Polish way?

In October 2014 Tunisians went to the polls for the legislative elections (Photo credit: Ahmed Medien)
In October 2014 Tunisians went to the polls for the legislative elections (Photo credit: Ahmed Medien)

One could easily argue that Tunisia and Poland are too different historically and politically to ever be compared with one another. Yet, the process of democratisation in Eastern Europe after 1989 led to various political similarities with the Arab Spring: a political compromise, the transformation of the old establishment and the place of religion in the public sphere. Could Poland inspire Tunisia?

By Katarzyna Mortoń

On the southern seaside of the Mediterranean, Tunisia, the smallest country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, has just taken a few big steps towards democracy. The Tunisian people elected Beji Caid Essebsi as president in December. A coalition government was formed, comprising the secular party Nidaa Tounes, the Islamist party Ennahda, the Free Patriotic Union and Prospects for Tunisia as well as the National Front. The elections and creation of a national unity government, together with the recently adopted progressive constitution, a new parliament and significant signs of consensus amongst political elites, seem to prove that today democracy has fully institutionalised itself in Tunisia. A remarkable result, especially considering the way revolutions went in Syria, Libya or even Egypt.

Still, some Tunisians and international observers worry that the victory of Essebsi, a politician who served under the autocratic regime of Ben Ali as a parliament speaker, does not embody prosperity, but instead a rather weak and possibly ill future for the country. Additionally, a number of events, like assassinations of anti-Islamist politicians Chokri Belaid in February 2013 and Mohamed Brahmi in July 2013, but mostly the latest gunmen attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis proved that the jihadi threat in Tunisia is a real obstacle on the way to stability.

In the meantime on the European continent, a former prime minister of the Republic of Poland, Donald Tusk, from the Civic Platform party, has just taken office as the president of the European Council. This institution of the European Union (EU), which gathers the heads of state and government of the 28 EU member states. Tusk’s nomination took place on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War, which had divided Europe into two separate areas for almost 45 years. Back then, democracy reigned on the West side of the wall, while the authoritarian regimes influenced – at least partly – by the Soviet Union were situated on the East side. Due to this division, Poland was part of the Eastern authoritarian block from 1945 until 1989. However, now, 25 years later, it is a successful model of a democratic transition.

While in fact Poland and Tunisia are totally different culturally, politically, geographically and socially, the main thing they actually do have in common gives both countries and their comparison a truly unique place in world’s history: both countries initiated a motion of political and social changes that spilled over into neighbouring countries, influencing their respective regions.

The revolutions were marked by difficult economic situations in both cases. In Tunisia the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17th became a catalyst for the protests that toppled former dictator Ben Ali.  In Poland, the catalysing spark came from a trade union movement called Solidarność (Solidarity), which had been founded in 1980 under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. The movement was first considered an illegal opposition group and was therefore politically repressed. But after years of resistance, the movement got included into the so-called Round Table Talks in 1989. These talks, held between the Polish communist regime and Solidarność, resulted in the first semi-free elections, which took place on June 4th and 18th of the same year.

Political consensus and parliamentary elections

Both countries have worked out a political consensus in order to institutionalise a growing democracy. The first free parliamentary elections in Tunisia in October 2011 brought victory to the Islamist Ennahda party. Shortly after, the Tunisian constituent assembly elected human rights activist Moncef Marzouki for president. The stability created by these elections was soon challenged by protests against the Islamist-led government. Luckily Ennahda agreed to hand over power to an independent government, to maintain peace and the country’s security. New elections took place in October 2014: Nidaa Tounes secured 85 seats and Ennahda 69 seats. Finally, in February 2015 a new multi-party government was composed in which previous opponents created a coalition.

Going back to 1989, to the first semi-free elections in Poland, the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR) and its satellite parties – from the old establishment – were guaranteed 65 % of the seats in the lower house. The elections to the upper house and the rest of the lower house were free and the Solidarność coalition won almost all of those seats. The PZPR’s leader, General Jaruzelski, was elected as president by the National Assembly (lower and upper house). Interestingly (and ironically), Jaruzelski was the one who imposed a martial law in 1981 to control any illegal opposition back then, which was made mainly of parties affiliated to the Solidarność movement.

Direct presidential elections

In both countries, the direct presidential elections were held in order to complete the democratic transition. Lech Wałęsa became Poland’s new president in December 1990. In Tunisia the direct presidential elections, held in December 2014, resulted in the victory of Beji Caid Essebsi, former official in Ben Ali’s administration, who won 55,68 % of the votes. One might notice a significant difference here: in Poland the elected president was an opposition leader, whereas in Tunisia the first free presidential elections were won by an official of the old regime. A possible explanation for this different electoral outcome lies in the fact that there was a clear ‘us versus them’ situation in Poland: the Solidarność coalition versus the old regime’s coalition. As mentioned already in Tunisia, there is a third controversial political actor on top of ‘the regime versus opposition narrative’: a religious group. Even though in both countries, religion has been a powerful force influencing political moods, in Poland the Catholic Church had no direct political aspirations as such but played a uniting role in the country’s transition. It is quite the opposite in Tunisia. One might ask: are Tunisians more afraid of Islamists than of politicians from the previous regime? Will Essebsi’s win result in the comeback of the old order, or will various political factions within Nidaa Tounes that aim for a cooperation with Ennahda continue to pursue their agenda of national unity? Will actions of Islamic extremist strengthen the coalition or weaken it and how will they influence the public?

By looking at what happened further with the democratic transition in Poland, we might find some answers to these questions. Quickly after 1989 the PZPR transformed itself into a modern, pro-democratic, pro-Europe political force, rightly following its political instinct. In their opinion, a change was inevitable and playing along was more beneficial than remaining rigid. With a new name – the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) – and focusing on the younger generation taking a lead in the party, the old establishment gained enough credibility to win a meaningful number of seats in the parliament, already in 1993 and in many elections after. They were also able to present their own candidate, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, for president in 1995. He lead Poland in two consecutive terms. Currently the SLD is in the opposition and its popularity has again been decreasing over the last few years. Nevertheless, the old establishment got consolidated into a well-functioning democracy.

Yet, the Polish political culture is still not free from its past. Politicians from the old regime becoming part of the democratic public sphere have always been seen as an obstacle in many political and intellectual circles, resulting in controversial situations. The polish Catholic Church even if not directly active at the political scene, still has and uses its informal yet powerful influence on a large number of traditional people in Poland, holding popular media outlets to voice their stands on various social and political issues.

A rocky road ahead

The aftermath of Poland’s transition to democracy seems positive, even though some might argue that the country could have done it better. However, it is important to notice that any system change is a long-lasting, multi-angled and multi-levelled process, often requiring choices to be made between conflicting imperatives. Therefore, Tunisia still has a rocky road ahead, and political compromises that gain the approval of Tunisia’s society have to be part of that bumpy road, especially concerning the external threat such as that of the extremism of the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, which does its best to support its allies in all countries worldwide.

The success of Tunisian transition will depend mainly on the tolerance and trust of the Tunisian people, but most of all on the will of political elites to transform, modernise and be legitimate in the eyes of their people. First of all, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda will have to continue their symbolic and pragmatic, yet extremely meaningful cooperation within the multi-party government of national unity. Secondly, Nidaa Tounes will have to keep reforming itself, showing no signs of sentiment to the practices of the old regime. Thirdly, Ennahda will have to get a good strategy on how to represent and voice Muslim communities in Tunisia. They cannot leave space for Islamic extremists to gain any sympathisers amongst them and assure secularists that their place is within the democratic state.

 

** This article will be followed by interviews with Tunisian activists.

Call for team members – Middle East and North Africa Committee

menacmeeting

Menac is a committee inside the European Youth Press that works to enhance the voices of young journalists and media-makers from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, to promote intercultural dialogue and the development of a better contextualisation of the respective regions.

The Middle East and North Africa is a diverse region in regards to its people’s culture, ethnicity, language and religion and so is Europe. In today’s world the two regions interact more than ever and media plays a crucial role in shaping opinions. Menac is addressing this interaction and the role of the media in it.

Menac organises projects such as Rethinking Journalism and Minority Voices for young media-makers from the two regions and is creating a sustainable network for young journalists and media-makers throughout Europe and the MENA-region. To help us with this, we are looking for new team members from December on.

Team members will be involved in the development and implementation of projects. Tasks include among others budget calculation, the writing of project proposals and funding applications, managing social media channels and the menac blog.

Menac currently consists of seven members. We now would like to enhance our team with four more members. We welcome applicants of any ethnicity, religion or gender from Europe and/or the MENA-region. We are particularly looking for someone interested in creating concent for social media and someone with knowledge in fundraising. However, we are open for and interested in every applicant who:

  • has an academic background of the regions or experience in the fields of journalism/media or NGO work;
  • has experience in project management, especially fundraising and finances;
  • speaks and writes English fluently, knowledge of Arabic or French would be an additional plus;
  • is able to commit at least 5-10 working hours per week and interested in a long term commitment;
  • is aged between 18-35.

Menac is working on a voluntary base. However, as a team member you have many benefits:

  • gain international experience in project management;
  • work in a culturally diverse team;
  • bring in your own ideas and suggestions;
  • network;
  • work with prominent institutions such as the European Parliament;
  • go to conferences on behalf of menac.

If you would like to be part of our team please send your CV and motivation letter to menac@youthpress.org until 20 November, 2014 23:59 CET. In your motivation letter you should explain your motivation for becoming a menac team member, where you would see yourself in the committee and which part of our work you’re most interested in.

For more information on menac check out our Facebook-Page, Twitter and description on our website.

Press Release: Rethinking Journalism Magazine Launched

logo_eyp

 

October 7, 2014

The cover of the Rethinking Journalism magazine

Young journalists from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa focus on reporting conflicts from a new perspective

“ We often do not feel affected by the news. While we see the sheer number of conflicts increasing, they are happening some place else. Maybe we are just too wealthy, too ignorant and too far away to engage with the constant stream of news on violence.” – Helene Timm (participant, Germany)

From 15 – 21 September, 2014, a group of 30 young journalists took part in the training session Rethinking Journalism in Berlin, Germany, that focused on the question of how to report on conflicts. The training session is part of a project organised by the Middle East and North Africa committee of the European Youth Press. The participants from Germany, Austria, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon learned about the concepts of peace journalism and ethical reporting in several training sessions, after which they applied the newly learned skills producing the digital magazine Rethinking Journalism.

The magazine features topics that range from the Yazidi community in Kurdistan to local conflicts in Berlin, such as the struggle of two African refugees looking for a new start in Germany, as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities’ joint efforts to fight antisemitism and islamophobia. Personal stories, such as Ena Hasković’s story of how she was wounded in her mother’s womb during the mid-90’s Bosnian war, found their place in this issue.

The magazine can be viewed online here:

An important outcome of the project are the guidelines that the participants wrote down for journalists to use when covering conflicts. They can be read in full here.

The project was kindly funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, the German Foreign Ministry and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.

The European Youth Press
The European Youth Press (EYP) is the umbrella organisation of young journalist associations in Europe, bringing together over 60.000 journalists across the continent. EYP hosts events and seminars such as the European Youth Media Days, organises seminars and represents young journalists in Europe, publishes Orange Magazine and much more.

Contacts
For further information, please contact:
Anna Saraste
Project coordinator
a.saraste@youthpress.org
http://www.youthpress.org

European Youth Press
Brussels office
Square de Meeus
B-1000 Brussels
mobile +32 (0) 492 556 508

Rethinking Journalism in action

There is not necessarily a need to look at so-called conflict zones to do conflict-sensitive reporting, sometimes a look around you is enough to find something interesting to cover. This is what some of the working groups of Rethinking Journalism did in Berlin. We joined Mathias Birsens (Germany), Agnija Kazusa (Latvia) and Dhaker Youssef (Tunisia) during their first full day of media productions.

Mathias and Agnija

Photo credit: Massinissa Benlakehal

For their piece on the situation of refugees in Berlin they are preparing visits to the scenes of refugee rights protests to interview activists. The planning was quite intense due to the time pressure and the interview schedules and trips to places where refugee rights movements are taking place had to be planned fast. But the tasks were divided quickly and a special dynamic developed thanks to the different languages in the group. Martin was able to get in touch with German spokespersons of a district in Berlin where refugees and refugee rights activists, is occupying a school and Dhaker helped with the translation from French into English during the interviews with refugee rights activists. Amdy, 34, from Senegal is one of them.

The group agreed to meet with him at the occupied school and as we arrived at the school gate, that had been locked by security, Dhaker phoned Amdy who came out. He took us to a nearby café and over a cup of tea, Mathias, Agnija, and Dhaker spoke to him about his activism in Berlin and his story of coming from Senegal to Germany via Italy.

_1420256_Foto_Mathias_Birsens
The media production group interviewing refugee rights activist, Amdy, 34. Photo: Lisa Zeller

Stay tuned for our presentation of the rest of the stories from Rethinking Journalism.

Text: Lisa Zeller

 

“The essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on the ground and put it in the bigger picture”

Putting things into the bigger picture and practice, that was what the 5th day of the workshop was all about. Moving from theory to practice, participants revised the guidelines of ethical journalism and conflict-sensitive reporting they had developed with the trainer Gülsen D. the day before.

That a single perspective is dangerous in journalism was one of the major points that were stressed. In order to achieve conflict-sensitive reporting one would have to avoid ethnocentric views, stereotypes, and move beyond a black and white image of victim and perpetrator.

Jaafar Abdul Karim, credit Pascale Müller
Jaafar Abdul Karim. Photo: Pascale Müller

To help the participants bridge the theoretical input and the media production Jaafar Abdul Karim, moderator of “Shabab Talk” at the German TV channel Deutsche Welle paid a visit to the workshop. Together with him, the young journalists tried to implement their knowledge on a real world situation. How would they design a talk show about the recent Gaza conflict taking for an audience of young Arabs in Germany? Whom would they invite?

Still having their guidelines in mind, many responded that the aim should be to invite guests from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side. It was debated how much sense it would make to invite guests with strongly opposing views. Could it harm the talk show more than it would benefit? Maybe it would be better to focus more on speakers that have some sort of conflict solution in mind?

While Jaafar explained how he decided who was invited to such a talk show, it became evident in the group that implementing the rules they had developed on a daily basis in their journalistic work might sometimes not even be possible. As one participant pointed out: “In a conflict with such history and complexity, it is hard to include all perspectives, because there are so many divisions even within the parties that are usually seen as opponents.”

Roy Gutman, credit Pascale Müller
Roy Gutman via Skype. Photo: Pascale Müller

After the session with Jaafar, Pulitzer Price winner Roy Gutman joined the group via Skype to give them insight into how ethical reporting on conflicts and wars can reflect in fieldwork. He stressed the importance of journalists to dig deeper, to not accept the first version of a story. “Good journalism is that you do not stop at stories people tell you,” he told participants. Gutman also brought the topic of activism from Monday’s panel “Journalists as activist or observers” back into discussion. For him there is no debate: “Journalists should not be activists. We are there to report the facts on the ground.”

With the input and the professional experience, it was time to get the production going. The editorial team consisting of Maria Wölfle, Assaad Thebian, and Pascale Müller introduced the online magazine as the final output of the workshop. Topics ranged from the conflict between refugees and the local administration in Berlin over the housing crisis and Russian separatists in Latvia. As Gutman said: “Essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on ground and put it in the bigger picture.” In the next days small reporting teams will keep working on their stories to make this happen.

Text: Pascale Müller