Qatar detains FIFA workers protesting lack of salaries
The Qatari authorities, under fire for human rights violations, arrest migrant workers for protesting against their mistreatment.
Qatar has arrested at least 60 foreign workers who were protesting their lack of payment and their arbitrary deportation, a human rights advocacy group said three months before the biggest event in football takes place in Doha, the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 2022 World Cup is the most controversial in FIFA history, as Qatar has been facing accusations of vote-buying ever since its naming 12 years ago in 2010 and questions over its suitability for hosting the World Cup due to authorities' violations of human rights.
The arrests come amid a horrid reputation for Qatar, as the country is facing mounting international criticism over its labor practices ahead of the World Cup, as it heavily relies on foreign labor like its neighboring Gulf States.
Additionally, workers protesting going months without pay, as well as their deportation, and the Qatari authorities' reaction to the protests, are raising more concerns about the grave violations committed by Doha.
The head of a labor consultancy investigating the incident said the detentions cast new doubt on Qatar's pledges to improve the treatment of workers. "Is this really the reality coming out?" asked Mustafa Qadri, executive director of the group, Equidem Research.
"A number of protesters were detained for breaching public safety laws," Qatar said in a statement to the Associated Press on Sunday night.
Videos circulated online showed some 60 workers protesting their salaries on August 14 outside of Al Bandary International's offices in Doha, a conglomerate that includes construction, real estate, hotels, and food services. Equidem revealed that some of the protestors have not received their salaries for as many as seven months.
The Qatari government acknowledged that the firm hadn't paid salaries, claiming that its Labor Ministry would pay "all delayed salaries and benefits" to those affected.
"The company was already under investigation by the authorities for nonpayment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed," the government further claimed.
Activists like Qadri have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.
"Have we all been duped by Qatar over the last several years?" Qadri asked, suggesting that recent reforms might have been "a cover" for authorities allowing prevailing labor practices to continue.
Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, a millionaire, said migrant workers "gain pride" from hard work when asked about the conditions of workers building World Cup stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar.
According to Infantino's assertions, workers would feel "proud" about building stadiums for the tournament that will be held later this year in the Gulf state, though they are subjected to horrid working conditions, leading many to die.
Infantino was asked if FIFA would make any sort of commitment to helping the families of workers who had died in Qatar.
He did not directly respond to the question, but he highlighted the introduction of a minimum wage and the "improved" employment rights in Qatar.
He, himself, said three people had died in construction work for the stadiums, acknowledging that the working conditions are highly hazardous.
Other workers, he said in an attempt to absolve FIFA from responsibility, "might have died in other works and so on, and of course, FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world."
The Qatari authorities refute the number of deaths of migrant workers reported by some international media, claiming it had introduced a series of reforms to its employment regulations since its selection to host the 2022 World Cup.
The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) revealed the financial prizes that the participating teams will receive in the upcoming World Cup Qatar 2022. The total sum of financial prizes for the international tournament, which will be played between November 21 and December 18, will be $440 million. Simultaneously, migrant construction workers are still not being paid their already meager wages compares to what the average Qatari makes.