It is astounding to think that in the year 2014, we have countries across the world that still embrace the cruelty that is slavery, but in Qatar and indeed all across the Arab Emirates, slave labour is ingrained into societal norms and cultural practices.
Arab tradition from bedouin times indicates that all foreign workers must have a "kefaal" or a sponsor that supports the foreigner whilst they are in Arab lands. Now, in the age of mega-corporations and noveau-riche oil-men, the kafala system persists: all migrant workers are now sponsored by a corporation. By sponsored, of course, I mean owned.
|All in the name of sport: Qatar's Al-Wakrah stadium will be built upon the blood of slavery|
The biggest migrant population in Qatar hails from India and three surrouding countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In these countries "recruitment agents" go around towns and villages promising the world to manual labourers. They are offered massive wages, often 5 times what they might make for the equivalent work at home, they are offered accommodation with air-conditioning and great facilites and they are even offered transportation to and from work for free everyday. To these men, who have grown up on less than a dollar a day, this is a chance to provide enough for themselves and their families for several years, it is an unmissable opportunity, all for a (usually around) measly $2000. Then they arrive in Qatar
Upon arrival, their passports are immediately confiscated by the kefaals, they are forced to sign contracts that essentially end all their rights, they are given wages that are a third or a half of what they promised for working double the hours they were told and that luxury accommodation is a single room with bunk beds shoved into every possible space, with 9 or 10 men to a room. Now they are trapped in a system where they don't speak the language, they don't have any contacts apart from each other and that "recruitment agent"? He doesn't seem to ever answer his phone.
|Common worker accommodation in the UAE|
FIFA's constant response is "we can't do anything", it is not a case of can't, it is a case of won't, because counting the cash is easier than counting the human cost. The kafala system is an outdated, barbaric system that promotes racism and slavery, FIFA should be pressuring Qatar to root this out as part of their responsibility to the sport that is often called the "worldwide game", instead they put out the same toothless statements again and again. If the Qataris refuse to remove the system, then remove the World Cup from the Qataris, it will be of no huge loss to the game of football.