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18 Mar 2017

Vivek Chaudhary, Guardian (UK)

‘We’re cheated, first in India, then in Qatar’: how World Cup workers are deceived

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The treatment of migrant World Cup workers in Qatar returns to the spotlight...when the International Labour Organisation debates proposals at its annual meeting in Geneva to force the country to implement labour reforms or face a commission of inquiry. This is the highest sanction of the UN agency, which is made up of trade unions, employers’ groups and government representatives from 187 member states, including Qatar, India and other south Asia nations. Central to the demands for the inquiry is the recruitment process...The recruitment process is only one of a number of criticisms levelled against Qatar over the World Cup. Others include workers being underpaid, poor living and working conditions and the kafala sponsorship system, which prevents them from changing jobs or leaving the country without the employer’s permission...

In response to mounting pressure, Qatar announced a number of reforms last December heralding that it had ended the kafala system...Critics protest that the reforms have been little more than window dressing and that considerable loopholes remain, meaning the kafala system and other repressive labour laws exist under different names. Trade unions remain banned, while employers are still able to stop workers from changing jobs for up to five years. Passport confiscation, officially outlawed, is also permissible under certain circumstances.

Kasi Ram (not his real name), a trade union organiser working secretly in Qatar, said: “It is Qatar that needs the workers and is in the best position to ensure that they are treated properly and fairly because, compared to India and Nepal, it is far richer and more powerful. But these are reforms in name only, the reality is that nothing has changed on the ground. The workers are exploited every step of the way, from the moment they step into a recruiting agent’s office right up to living and working in Qatar.”