Mar 9, 2014
Qatar an ‘Open Jail’ for Nepalese Laborers Working in Slave-Like Conditions
Posted on Sep 26, 2013
At least 44 Nepalese laborers died this summer and countless others are working under slave-like conditions in Qatar as the oil-rich nation undertakes a massive construction surge to prepare for the 2022 World Cup international soccer tournament, The Guardian reports.
Workers are enduring appalling conditions, from being forced to live a dozen to a room, cheated out of their pay, denied water at work sites in desert conditions, and having passports and other crucial documents confiscated to preclude their escape. Of the deaths, most were young men dying of heart failure or workplace accidents. The conditions are so bad that at least 30 Nepalese workers sought refuge in the Nepal Embassy in Doha, the capital.
All to prepare for a sports competition.
The Guardian reports that the abuses are at the hands of managers for subcontractors far below the control of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which oversees the preparations. Officials there told The Guardian they were “deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors ... and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness.” Government officials were investigating.
It’s unclear how much effect that might have in a nation where Human Rights Watch says “forced labor and human trafficking are serious problems” and where “the government has failed to address shortcomings in the legal and regulatory framework” despite being well aware of the pervasive maltreatment of migrant workers—who make up the vast majority of Qatari residents.
Nepalese are the predominant laboring group, The Guardian reports, and thousands of them live and work in conditions that meet the International Labor Organization’s definition of slavery.
The situation is so appalling that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, called the Mideast nation an “open jail.” Yet the desire to make a living, and the pervasiveness of shady Qatari labor contractors in Nepal and other South Asian countries, keeps the flow of workers moving.
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
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