The government in Kathmandu, Nepal, just revealed that workers building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have been barred from returning home to attend funerals or visit relatives following the earthquakes in Nepal that have killed more than 8,000 people and displaced thousands others.
In what is being described as the first public criticism of FIFA by the Himalayan nation, Tek Bahadur Gurung, the labor minister said:
“After the earthquake of 25 April, we requested all companies in Qatar to give their Nepalese workers special leave and pay for their air fare home. While workers in some sectors of the economy have been given this, those on World Cup construction sites are not being allowed to leave because of the pressure to complete projects on time.”
“They have lost relatives and their homes and are enduring very difficult conditions in Qatar. This is adding to their suffering,” he added.
While Gurung urged the international soccer association and its sponsors to pressure the Gulf state for better treatment of migrants, there’s little hope of any substantial action mainly because of the money involved in such grand sporting events.
It’s not as if this controversy surrounding Qatar has recently erupted. FIFA – and pretty much every other profit-making corporation involved – has been knowingly neglecting all kinds of problems that could emerge during the 2022 World Cup for several years now.
When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, in 2009, an evaluation report found that extreme heat, especially during daytime, could be a major health risk for players and spectators in the country. The following year in December, the FIFA executive committee selected the country as its World Cup host nevertheless.
Later allegations about vote-buying and bribery as well as human-rights abuses emerged – the most shocking being the prediction that as many as 4,000 laborers could be dead by 2022. Moreover, several thousand migrant workers from India and Nepal have died in Qatar since the construction began in 2012.
However, FIFA is still paying lip-service to the issue, quite obviously, because of the billions of dollars it makes as a result of the competition – the 2014 World Cup generated $4.8 billion in total revenue for FIFA, turning a $2.6 billion profit for the association. Also, considering the fact that it made $2.4 billion in TV rights fees and $1.6 billion in sponsorships, it’s no wonder that sponsors such as Coca-Cola – which already live off making money by selling sugar-loaded carbonated beverages – aren't bothered.
Of the nearly 1.5 million migrant laborers working on the mega project 400,000 are from Nepal while the rest hail from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In fact, immigrants make up almost 94% of Qatar's workforce, and 70% of its total population – which is a lot – yet the country shamelessly carries on with human rights abuses unchecked.