On Friday, Reuters published an article exposing the Qatari government’s recent eviction of thousands of foreign workers living in the Al Mansoura district of the capital city of Doha, where visiting soccer fans will stay during the World Cup set to begin on November 20th. The middle eastern nation’s position as the Cup’s host has already generated outrage due to several corruption and labour treatment scandals. The evictions are yet another injustice on the list of scandals in Qatar leading up to this year’s World Cup.
A statement by a Qatari government official claimed that the evictions are unrelated to the World Cup, that all eviction notices “would have been conducted with proper notice,” and that all evicted workers were provided “safe and appropriate accommodation.” However, accounts given by the workers themselves prove otherwise. In one building, which residents say housed 1,200 people, authorities notified residents at 8:00 PM on Wednesday that they had just two hours to evacuate. Authorities returned at 10:30 PM to remove the remaining residents from the building and lock the doors. Some workers were unable to return in time to collect their belongings. This exact situation occurred in over a dozen buildings in the area, some of which had their electricity switched off as an additional use of force.
The evictions forced thousands of mainly Asian and African workers to seek immediate shelter, in some cases on the pavement outside their former homes. “We don’t have anywhere to go,” one evicted worker told Reuters as he and 10 other men prepared to sleep outside for a second night.
The timing of the evictions – mere weeks before the World Cup – exposes the Qatari government’s true intention. Rather than properly compensate the migrant workers who contributed to the World Cup that Qatar is so proud to host, the government has chosen to deny their efforts. By evicting them from the capital, Qatar hopes to maintain its façade as an advanced nation when it goes on worldwide display in November.
Controversies like this one have rattled Qatar for years. Amnesty International accused the government of failing to properly investigate many migrant workers’ deaths. In 2018, the United Nations accused Qatar of racial discrimination, claiming a worker’s nationality played an “overwhelming role” in how Qatar treated them. The Qatari government has denied any allegations that labourers are ever ill-treated.
To its credit, the government introduced labour laws in 2020 and 2021 intended to ensure economic and physical safety for migrant workers. Despite these positive changes, however, rights groups continue to emphasize reports documenting unpaid wages, illegal recruitment fees, and poor enforcement of labour rules, making it clear that Qatar is still far from complete economic justice.
A significant obstacle to achieving that justice is found in the international community’s response, which has yet to put sufficient pressure on the Qatari government to improve how it treats labour. Billions of people view the World Cup quadrennially. How many of those viewers will leave with a positive perception of Qatar as a host country, unaware of the abuses that built the sports event they just watched? Qatar clearly recognizes the opportunity to propagandize here; Bloomberg Intelligence estimated that Qatar was on course to complete $300 billion of infrastructure projects before the opening game. Evidently, none of that money is being used to house the evicted workers.
Organizers expect the World Cup to add $17 billion to the Qatari economy, but the government clearly can’t be trusted to send that money to the workers who need it most. Without efforts from the international community, the money will instead be pocketed by the same employers who have been abusing those workers for years. The international community must recognize the suffering of these workers and hold Qatar accountable for its treatment of them. Anyone with respect for human dignity or for the World Cup as a sporting institution should be outraged by Qatar’s economic oppression.
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