Qatar is the richest country in the world per capita and the host to 2022 FIFA World cup. It is also home to some of the most exploitative working conditions anywhere. Workers toil in diabolic slave environments and are deprived of their basic human rights. Workers are paid far less and they don’t have passports so they can’t go home. In this investigative report, PRESS TV’s Johnny Miller goes to Doha and sees the shocking reality of the harshness the workers have to face to put up the World Cup. Many are simply worked to death. Johnny finally tries to find answer to the question whether Qatar should have been given the honor in the first place or not?
Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and the host of the 2022 world cup. Also, home to some of the most exploitative working conditions anywhere.
On this week’s Infocus we expose workers living conditions and ask whether Qatar should be hosting the world cup at all.
In part 1 of this film we exposed the shocking level of exploitation in Qatar. How virtual slaves are toiling to build a modern state in the desert. In part 2, we will ask whether Qatar should have been given the honour of hosting the 2022 world cup at all.
The Industrial Area on the outskirts of Doha. Home to tens of thousands of workers. This is the engine room of Qatar’s construction boom.
Walk in to one of them, take a look around and you’ll see a side of Qatar that you wont find in the glossy tourist brochures.
WORKERS We have been here for two months. And for two months we haven’t been given beds.
They say they will give. But they don’t.
I was even told of one man who had to sleep sitting up. The toilets are the most shocking of all.
WORKERS I’ve been working here for 6 years. So has everyone here but our salary has never increased. I have only been home once in that time. I had to buy the ticket myself. The company gave nothing. I had to buy the ticket from the company even though it was cheaper elsewhere. The company never gives tickets. The company is called Marco.
These workers were promised decent pay, accommodation, food allowances and a paid ticket back home every two years. When they arrived their passports were taken and their salarys drastically cut. Every promise has been broken. They took out huge loans to come here and now struggle to send any money back home.
WORKERS I got sick and I had to go to the hospital. I had to pay for the treatment myself and the company cut my salary for going.
For many in the construction industry, its tiring work, 6, sometimes 7 days a week. Health problems are endemic. It is estimated that 4000 workers will have died by 2022. Largely from heart attacks due to working too hard under the scorching sun and to work place accidents.
WORKERS There has been one guy who died here.
He lost consciousness and he fell down. He had just finished work and was walking to the bus.
The company said that when they sent the body home they would send money as well but they never did.
Some companies in the Qatari construction industry are better than others. This company, Marco, is definitely amongst the worst. But the stories heard here are similar to those heard right across the industrial area.
WORKERS Some of the people here want to leave but every time they go to the office to ask, they don’t permit them to leave.
There is a culture of fear in Qatar. Few will speak on camera, scared of being sacked and left with no income at all. The government refused us an interview. At Doha’s central hospital one official did speak to us. We secretly recorded and have changed his voice to protect his identity.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of exploitation in Qatar is not how poor the workers are but how rich the rest of Qatar is. Per capita it is the wealthiest country on earth. With only 300 000 official citizens it has the world’s third largest oil reserves.
With that money, the country has invested heavily in Europe. They own…
Europe’s tallest skyscraper, The Shard. London’s exclusive Harrod’s shopping centre. Paris St Germain Football Club, offering players a 1 million Euro bonus each if they won the champions league. They have large stakes in Barclays bank and Sainsbury’s supermarket as well as owning swathes of London’s Canary Wharf.
And in their own country a construction boom has led to a modern metropolis in what was once a desert. They’ve also built a sprawling artificial island, called the Pearl where rich Arabs shop and western expats live.
Qatar’s skyline is a mirage. From afar it looks like a bustling metropolis but get up close and much of it feels like a ghost town. Many of these towers only have a few inhabitants. Some are completely empty. Only a few are full. With only 300 000 citizens its difficult to see how these towers will ever be fully occupied. And bizarrely, building continues. More towers are being built every year.
Once again, the strangest thing… it’s a ghost town. It feels like a movie set. Dozens of retail outlets lie empty, the canal waters calm, except in the evening when joy riders race. The only noise to ever be heard here.
A Security Guard stops us.
The absurdity of Qatar lies in its extremities. Thousands of flats lie empty while those who build them are huddled up to 18 in a room sometimes even without beds.
The next day we got a real estate agent to show us round the Venetian flats. We pretended to be prospective tenants. Only a few of the flats are up for rent. The rest are bought as investments. Wealthy investors from all over the world buying the flats in the hope that in a couple of years they will be worth more. Then they will sell them on. They have no plans to live in them themselves.
The interior of the flats are cheap. Thin walls and inexpensive fittings. Yet, they are currently valued at upward of 3 million Euros each.
The world cup is expected to cost Qatar over $200 billion dollars. In contrast the recent world cup in South African cost just $3 billion. They will build more hotels, vast new transport networks and 8 brand new stadiums, even an entire new city. The stadiums will likely only host a few matches and then sit empty or be dismantled.
The main winners will be Western constructing firms who stand to make billions of dollars.
Such madness can perhaps be understood in how Qatar won the right to host the tournament. In a haze of corruption.
The 10 year old daughter of one disgraced FIFA official reportedly received 3.4 million dollars after her father voted for Qatar.
Another official was allegedly paid 2 million.
Its not just construction workers who have it tuff. We were invited to the accommodation of some of the taxi drivers.
Drivers are paid far better than construction workers but their sleeping conditions are similar.
One of them wants to show me what they have to share their beds with.
They struggle to send money home and are in constant fear of making mistakes.
They stick there fines in their rooms as ironic trophies.
On some days we would follow busses back from some of the huge construction sites. We would be confused as the busses would leave the roads driving off into the distance.
This camp has become a sprawling town. Thousands of workers live here. The nearest shops are over an hour walk away. Sometimes they don’t have running water. The water they do have is salt water.
Perhaps the most badly treated are domestic workers. While we were in Qatar, Amnesty International released a report.
“My sleep is my break” one of them said as many are forced to work 100 hour weeks as virtual slaves.
In one of Doha’s sports centres a basketball match is taking place between a team of mechanics and a team of security guards. All Phililpinos, these workers are amongst the better paid.
In the Philipino embassy, every month dozens of workers come to escape. The organiser of this charity explains why.
The penalty for rape in Qatar is life imprisonment but it is usually the housemaids themselves who are charged with illicit relations, so few complain. Effectively there is no danger of repercussions if a housemaid is raped.
We had heard about a football match that was to be played. So we thought we would hitch a ride with some of the spectators.
Nepal was playing the Phillippines and lots of workers were invited.
There was a carnival atmosphere as Nepalese and Phillipino musicians were invited to perform. And then the football began. This is the image of workers that Qatar would like the world to see.
Although the Government is making some progress in improving the lives of workers and most are undoubtably better off than they would be in their own countries too little is being done.
The die has been cast. Qatar will be hosting the 2022 world cup. Perhaps with international pressure the tournament will be an opportunity to improve workers conditions but the sad truth is that thousands of workers will still die in putting on what is essentially just a football tournament.