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Concerns Continue Ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

As teams around the world continue to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, the host country, Qatar, finalizes its preparations for the teams and their fans to arrive. Included in those preparations is an unexpected major public relations cleanup for both FIFA and the host country. Qatar and FIFA, the international governing body of association football, have been under fire since the country’s successful bid in 2010. From allegations of underlying corruption in the bidding process to severe human rights infringement in construction development, criticism and controversy have surrounded most news regarding one of the most-watched sporting events in the world.

To prepare for such an anticipated event, Qatar has poured an unprecedented amount of funds into developing an infrastructure for the tournament, costing upwards of $200 billion. Among these developments are the construction of eight stadiums, an airport city, transportation/housing developments, and the expansion of luxury hotels across the country.[1] The construction for the 2022 World Cup has been carried on the backs of migrant workers from South Asian and African countries that traveled to Qatar in search of stable job opportunities. Instead, these migrant workers are exploited through dangerous working conditions and dismal labor laws. According to The Guardian, more than 6,500 migrant construction workers have died in the process of constructing this project.

Qatar’s winning bid has not only provided the country with the opportunity to subject itself to economic growth, but it has also allowed the country to subject itself to public scrutiny regarding the region’s “kafala” system of labor.[2] This system requires workers to give up their passports and work in the country until released by their employer. The kafala system also discourages laws designed to protect the labor and human rights of migrant workers. The workers’ common grievances include nonpayment/delayed payment, poor living conditions, and extraneous manual labor in poor working conditions. In addition, Qatar’s intense summer heat has been found to be a significant factor in many deaths that occurred throughout the construction process. In 2015, the FIFA Task Force suggested moving the tournament to the fall months due to the fear that players and fans would suffer from heat-related injuries. The Qatar 2022 World Cup will be the first tournament to not be held in the usual summer months.[3] Although Qatar and FIFA officials considered the health of future world cup attendees, the same consideration was not given to the health of the migrant workers.

Football federations and fans from around the world have asked for FIFA to address the concerns and property investigate the deaths and corruption related to Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup 2022. After about a decade of protest and controversy, Qatar began to amend laws pertaining to the labor and individual human rights of migrant workers in the country. New labor laws were introduced in 2020 to guarantee a basic minimum wage and reduce the exploitative factors of the kafala system.[4]

In early December 2021, FIFA held a meeting with “political institutions and rights organizations to discuss human rights in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup.” This meeting allowed the stakeholders to voice their concerns about crucial issues, from the rights of laborers to those of the LGBTQIA community.[5]

Qatar believes that the opportunity to host the World Cup 2022 will be invaluable in diversifying the country’s economy and providing many more opportunities of international involvement to come. This global vision is shown to be a potential reality given recent efforts. In November 2021, Qatar hosted its first ever Formula One Grand Prix and signed a 10-year deal to continue hosting in future Formula One seasons.

Qatar continues to be under an international spotlight as the world awaits the arrival of the 2022 World Cup. Human rights organizations have critically watched Qatar’s recent labor reforms and hope that more meaningful change is soon to follow.

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