The 2022 World Cup dead body count begins.
Twelve workers will die each week from now until the first game begins at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
That figure was formed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) after they took the average of how many workers have so far died while working on infrastructure. At least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August, but autopsies weren’t routinely performed and when they were the results showed a mix of heart failure (likely from the deplorable working conditions) and workplace “accidents.” These workers are called “migrant” workers, a nice little term which usually means “expendable.” This article from The Guardian gives a glimpse into how expendable humans are treated:
Workers described being forced to work in 50C heat without a supply of drinking water by employers who withhold salaries for several months and retain their passports to prevent them leaving the country. The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions, and hunger has been reported.
But the game will go on. The game of mistreating and exploiting those reported 500,000 who will come from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Of course, any official figure of death is likely a fraction of what’s actually happening. Consider that the Indian embassy in Qatar said that 82 Indian workers died in the first half of the year. And consider this: Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. The World Cup isn’t happening in some obscure city in Bangladesh. What we have here are the poorest workers in the world being treated like slaves by the richest country in the world. Readers, help me fill in the blank here:
This is a microcosm for ________.
There’s talk of international pressure being put on Qatar until it cleans up its act. There’s talk of workers rising up and bringing the whole thing down. There’s talk, but, according to Sharon Burrow, General Secretary for ITUC, “Nothing of any substance is being done by the Qatar authorities on this issue.”
Workers, of course, aren’t allowed to form unions. But there’s something even worse: many workers aren’t allowed to leave. “The company won’t let us,” said one worker. I’m imagining the threats coming from the employers— likely to kill the worker or their family or otherwise wreck their already difficult lives.
But the game will go on. The game of making workers who complain disappear. The game of cleaning up the surface of the situation so it looks great for the media. Heck, maybe even buying the media off if they haven’t already. I mean, after all, remember the “private email” and the many bribing allegations all pointing to how Qatar allegedly “bought” the right to host the World Cup?
There will be a kickoff. Millions around the world will cheer. I only hope that those who are dead and those who will be can someway, somehow cheer for the soon-to-come worker’s rights for which they gave their lives.
–Photo: Mila Araujo/Flickr