Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Deadly Decisions

Posted 11/09/2022 by Ben Hartley

Migrant workers spend time in poor living conditions provided by employers. photo by Dan Tiego

Construction for the 2022 Qatar World Cup has violated the human rights of migrant workers.

The Qatar World Cup is projected to have five billion viewers, making it the largest sporting event across the globe. World Cup officials approximate 1.2 million fans will attend the tournament this year, and the remaining fans will celebrate the festivities in the streets and homes of their domestic nations. In past summers, fans of the World Cup have gathered in large public spaces to support their nation’s team.This year however, local authorities of Paris and other French towns have decided to not publicly broadcast these games on large TV screens. France has declared this in order to protest the many human labor violations that Qatar has broken while constructing this World Cup’s facilities and stadiums. Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, fatalities of migrant workers in the country have amassed to a count of 6,500. These workers, hailing from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, are oftentimes denied permission to leave Qatar due to the country’s strict policies that grant employers control over workers’ immigration status. 

There are still many more unique factors playing into this year’s World Cup. Qatar’s temperatures in July alone range from lows of 88 to highs of 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat like this poses an apparent health risk to players and supporters. Therefore, matches in Qatar will begin as early as November 21st and last until the final match on December 18th. While this change in seasons certainly helps, fall temperatures can still reach 79 0F in this Middle Eastern desert climate- temperatures high enough to force Qatari officials to install air blasting jets and temperature control sensors around their stadiums. Not only does this rescheduling break tradition, but it also raises questions about how students and 9-5 employees in our country will manage to catch games in such a busy time of year. Students here at TJ are bound to watch these matches themselves, hiding from their teachers behind the tinted screens of Chromebooks. 

However, this is hardly the biggest concern that people around the world have voiced about the time shift of this coming World Cup. Not only will the tournament disrupt fans schedules, but will also interfere with the seasons of the world’s most popular domestic soccer leagues across Europe. These leagues also contain the highest number of professional footballers that also play for their countries National teams. Because of this the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, and France’s Ligue 1 are all being forced to take mid season breaks set to begin following each leagues last round of games on November 12th and 13th. Players in these European leagues play around 55-60 games in their club season alone. Many of them are now expected to play in the World Cup and resume play in their domestic leagues only days after the tournament ends. This level of activity is very demanding even for some of the world’s fittest athletes and poses the risk of injury for some. Players and fans are certainly inconvenienced in many ways during this year’s World Cup, but it is important we remember the oppression and mortality faced by the workers who built the stadiums and infrastructure needed to host the cup. After all of this controversy, it is reasonable to question why the tournament is even being held in Qatar after all. FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, uses members of their congress to vote on where the World Cup should be held through an exhaustive ballot system. Qatar was elected as this year’s venue in 2010. A decision by FIFA to shift the World Cup location after the violations came to light would likely have led to more controversy. It is also difficult to discount the $220 billion dollars it has taken to build the necessary airport, streets, hotels, and stadiums to host the tournament in Qatar. 

The human rights of workers used in the construction of the World Cup this year have been harshly violated. They have been subjected to poor working conditions, denied access to leave, and many workers have even died throughout the process of making Qatar a suitable venue. Out of these fatalities, thirty-seven have been directly linked to the construction of stadiums. An unknown number of these migrant workers have not been allowed to leave Qatar as well. This violation of workers rights can be attributed to the Kafala system in parts of the Middle East, which bans migrant workers from leaving Qatar unless they have an exit permit from their employer.  With the pressure of hosting the world’s largest sporting event, it will be difficult to calculate just how many migrant workers have been forced to stay against their will in Qatar. In addition, numerous reports have surfaced that workers in Qatar have endured through illegal wage deductions, and sometimes even months of strenuous and unpaid labor. The rest of the world has become wise to the mistreatment of these workers. This has coerced Qatar into updating laws and regulations protecting worker rights in order to appease the public eye. While the country’s effort is commendable, it is difficult to get past the controversies that continue to get uncovered. On top of all their other human rights violations, Qatar has also been found placing migrant workers on a five month unpaid leave and sending them away from the country in order to conceal them during the tournament. 

This World Cup also marks the end of an era for many many great players. This includes stars such as Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar – all of which have claimed that this will likely be the last World Cup they compete in, marking the end of their national team careers. As we wave goodbye to many generational talents, the world is reminded of what truly matters; the lives and safety of the workers who made this tournament possible.