E.In exactly one year, on December 18, 2022, the world will be tied to the media and follow the World Cup final live from Qatar. December 18 will also be International Migrants Day.
The 2022 World Cup is personal for Nepalese people. The eight stadiums in Qatar where the Games will be played are built on the blood, sweat and tears of tens of thousands of migrant workers, including those from Nepal.
“There’s a lot of excitement here in Doha about the FIFA Arab Cup,” said Ram, a Nepalese construction worker from the Dang district who worked on the impressive Lusail Stadium, which will host the finals on December 18th next year. “It seems that these structures came into being almost overnight, it’s unbelievable. But I realized that it’s all about money. ”
Ram himself makes $ 274 a month. Although it’s an increase from the $ 206 he made four years ago, he had to pay a recruiter in Nepal $ 1,000. There are hundreds of thousands of Nepalese like Ram, the unknown builders of the impressive infrastructure. Lusail Stadium has a wall full of photos of some of the workers who helped build the stadium.
But Ram and migrants from other countries might have felt a deeper pride in being associated with the World Cup if they had been treated more gracefully, paid on time, and free Exploitation and abuse.
In an online media briefing organized by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday, researchers said that while labor laws in Qatar are relatively better, things have not improved locally and that there is resistance from contractors working on World Cup infrastructure Afford.
“Qatar’s legal framework is better than other countries in the region, but the local conditions are still poor. If they are to be a role model, as they claim, much more needs to be done to protect workers’ rights, ”said May Romanos of Amnesty International.
Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup a decade ago and is in a massive construction phase. After taking the spotlight in 2018, the international media promised to reform working conditions, but reports of unpaid wages, high recruiting costs, miserable living conditions and deaths from heat stress still exist.
At least 30 migrant workers died on World Cup construction sites, the rights group says, 18 of them unexplained. In Kathmandu, the coffins arrived on flights from Doha, and the same planes brought more migrant workers to Qatar.
“Died in his sleep” (सुत्दा सुत्दै मर्यो) has become a slang term in Nepal and the deaths have been attributed to “natural causes”. Most of the time, there was nothing natural about them – they were the result of overwork, heat stroke, and official apathy.
Nepalese workers died in Qatar, but they wanted to work in Qatar too. And therein lay the riddle. The money they made building stadiums in Qatar helped them build houses for their families in Nepal.
“At least 70% of deaths are unexplained, which is unacceptable, especially in a
Country with such an advanced health system, ”said Nicholas McGeehan of the rights group FairSquare. “Being a migrant worker in Qatar today is really bad for your health and can kill you.”
Rameshwar is from Sarlahi District and works as an electrician in Qatar. He supports a Brazilian soccer team and works for an employment agency. Like many other Nepalese workers, he is concerned that he will be sent home before the FIFA games start in 2022.
“They usually want to keep the maintenance workers and maybe send everyone else back,” he says on the phone from Doha. “I’m afraid of losing my job. How do I look after my family after my return? ”
Certainly Qatar cannot be culpably singled out. The exploitation of workers by unscrupulous recruiters and harassment by officials begins in Nepal even before workers leave their homes.
At a time when construction for the World Cup in Qatar was in full swing, the ambassadorial post in Doha was vacant from 2013 to 2017 when the abuse of migrants, including the sudden death of Nepalese workers, peaked and attracted worldwide attention.
Then the government of Prime Minister Deuba Narad Nath Bharadwaj called back without naming his successor, at a time when the need for labor diplomacy was most urgent in Doha.
And this year, Nepal and Qatar screwed up a lucrative contract to supply 200 Nepalis to the Qatar police force. They would have made 180,000 rupees a month, excluding overtime pay and end-of-service benefits. Unscrupulous authorities and recruiters knew that desperate Nepalis were willing to pay under the table. But things got so messy that all 200 work orders were canceled.
“Everyone wanted a piece of the cake until there was no cake left,” said one activist.
Nepal has also failed to keep its promise to reintegrate workers who have had to return due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Programs such as the prime minister’s noisy employment program have had no effect.
According to reports, Qatar could plan to send many construction workers, including Nepalese, back on extended vacation before the games begin in the stadiums and facilities they helped build.
“Even if they let me stay, I wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets for the stadium games,” says Rameshwor. “I’ll watch it on the TV screen.”
There will be plenty of Nepalese in the hospitality industry looking after players and visitors during the World Cup in Doha, and the workers are hoping for future projects to get involved in.
But international rights watchdogs say the world’s attention will wane once the games are over and the media’s outlook changes. They say not a single worker died building stadiums in London for the 2012 Olympics, and there is no reason why Qatar couldn’t maintain similar safety standards with its resources.
“Despite Qatar’s public relations offensive and sportswashing, real and lasting reforms are urgently needed as workers continue to suffer wage abuse, employers fail to be accountable and complaints are ignored,” said Hiba Zayadin of Human Rights Watch.
Meanwhile, politicians in Nepal are already in electoral mode and will be too busy campaigning in 2022 to concern themselves with the welfare of migrants. There are already high standards that, if elected, will curb migration and create jobs in their homeland over the next five years.
Most Nepalese have heard this before, and the confidence deficit is so high that emigration to Qatar and elsewhere appears to be the more reliable – and for many the only – alternative.
The government should immediately ensure that the embassies of Nepal in the destination countries for migrants are adequately staffed and financially equipped. It could diversify brain drain towards better, higher paying jobs and leverage bilateral labor agreements like the one with Qatar, which is currently being renewed, to better protect workers.