We can safely say that Qatar’s ruse to focus our attention on its female genitalia-shaped stadium hasn’t worked; whilst it might have distracted us for a moment, we quickly returned to the appalling mistreatment of their – and I hesitate to use the word – workforce. The reason for this hesitation is because “slaves” or “deceased” would seem to be more apt.
A recent Guardian report confirmed what we had been frightened of – working conditions, that had been anecdotally fed back to us over the past decade regarding the treatment of workers in the Qatar construction sector, were not only still in existence but, possibly, even exacerbated due to the world cup deadline.
The migrant workforce being treated in a less than humane manner is not unique to Qatar; whilst the Athens Olympics reported an already high death toll of 14, Amnesty International puts the actual figure at somewhere between 40 and 150. Apparently the migrant workforce was not deemed important enough to be counted. Similar stories have emerged from the Beijing Olympics and India’s Commonwealth Games. But it’s not just the death toll that’s the problem; much of Qatar’s labour-force live in appalling conditions, don’t have access to food and water and are working 12 hour-plus days in the burning sun – all this and, reportedly, they are not being paid in order to ensure that they cannot afford to leave.
As a transient industry many of us have worked in Qatar or other countries that treat their workforces in a similarly less than humane manner. Wishing this away, or viewing it as a matter of “culture” is simply not acceptable. If we find ourselves in a position where we are being paid generously to manage works where we know others are being put in danger unnecessarily, or kept against their will in unfit conditions, we must see ourselves as part of the problem – after all where else do we think that generous pay packet comes from?
And the bigger question should be, how do we become part of the solution?