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UCATT representatives on a recent Building Workers' International mission to Qatar have uncovered shocking human rights abuses, with migrant construction workers being worked to death, and treated as slaves by employers and agencies as the country increases construction in the run-up to the football World Cup in 2022.
The visit, where UCATT were represented by General Secretary Steve Murphy, National Political Officer Jim Kennedy, and Executive Council Chair Neil Vernon, revealed horrific exploitation of migrant workers from Nepal, India and Pakistan, who are forced to live inside inhumane work camps.
The mission has revealed horrific and deadly exploitation of migrant workers, who are forced to live in squalor, drink salt water and get paid just 57p an hour. It is reported that up to now some 1,200 construction workers have died in recent years.
One of the greatest problems in Qatar is the kafala system which ties migrant workers to their employers. The employer therefore has complete control over the worker who cannot even leave Qatar without the employer’s permission. The system effectively means that passports and wages are withheld from the worker. The worker is also charged up to £1,000 to work in Qatar.
The United Nations agency the International Labour Organisation has previously warned that Qatar is failing to implement the international convention banning forced labour. It found that Qatar did not investigate workplace conditions and there was “no coherence” in the state’s policies over the use of migrant labour.
In February 2014, the ILO upheld a complaint from the ITUC on the lack of rights of migrant workers to legally protect themselves. The ILO then called on the Qatari authorities to implement sufficient sanctions on the contractors and agencies to ensure workers were no longer treated as slaves and exploited through the kafala system. The shocking revelations of the BWI visit shows that little, if anything has been done to support these recommendations.
Following the mission to Qatar, the team of UCATT, investigative journalist Kevin Maguire from the Mirror, and Labour MPs warned that the 2022 tournament is being built “on the blood and misery of an army of slave labour”, after uncovering appalling abuse during a visit to the Gulf monarchy.
Qatar is accused of working migrants to death since being awarded the World Cup in 2010 and campaigners have insisted the shocking death toll could reach 4,000 before a ball is kicked.
UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy, moved by what he had seen said “I could cry for these lads. I’ll never forget what I saw in the labour camps.”
“The RSPCA would be on to you if you kept dogs in the conditions these workers are forced to endure. They live in squalor and risk being killed or maimed at work. This slaughter will continue unless conditions improve and they are allowed freedom of association.”
Steve Murphy has written a more in-depth personal account of his visit.
FIFA faces renewed pressure to show Qatar a World Cup red card following the exposure of mass deaths and vile exploitation of construction workers in the region. UCATT is therefore leading an international political campaign to increase worldwide pressure on the Qatari authorities to take actions to end the practices which see workers dying, and having their human rights undermined by agencies and employers.
The accomodation blocks in the labour camps where nine workers are forced to sleep in a tiny room.
The cooking facilities in the labour camps are appalling unhygienic.
Just 5 basic toilets are provided for 200 workers.
Early Day Motion
In the UK Parliament, Chris Williamson MP, a member of the UCATT political group has tabled Early Day Motion 1244 recognising the campaign of UCATT and our international comrades in the BWI, and calls on FIFA to step in and force the Qatari authorities to take action or withdraw their right to hold the football World Cup in 2022.
UCATT members are asked to contact their MP and ask them to sign the EDM and give their support to workers that are at risk of death from the inhumane treatment that they are subjected to working in Qatar.
Not sure who your MP is? Check online at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk or ring 020 7219 4272.
Email your MP
You can also email your MP:
- Find their email address at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk.
- Cut and paste this text into an email:
Subject: Support migrant workers in Qatar
I need your help to secure justice for migrant construction workers in Qatar. Are you aware that up to 1,200 workers have been killed building the infrastructure and stadia to enable Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. If this continues then the football World Cup held will take place with the stain of the blood of migrant workers on the hands of the nations taking part, FIFA and the Qatar Government. Please support this campaign and sign up to EDM 1244: Qatar World Cup and Migrant Workers Rights.
- Copy your email to UCATT National Political Officer Jim Kennedy at [email protected].
Guide: Blacklisting and public procurement
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