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Calls to Boycott Qatar and the UAE for Labor Violations

[Workers in a bus after a day of work in Dubai. Image from Flickr/Eric J Scott] [Workers in a bus after a day of work in Dubai. Image from Flickr/Eric J Scott]

[The following is a Migrant Rights post on calls to boycott the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and (possibly) the UAE, if chosen for the 2024 Olympics.]

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) will organize a boycott of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar unless the nation improves migrant worker conditions. The group also plans to boycott the UAE (if selected for the 2024 Olympics) if genuine labor reform is not realized. As both nations will implement intensive labor projects in preparation for these events, ITUC emphasized that laborers must be guaranteed fair pay as well as decent accommodations.

Critics have blasted both FIFA and Qatar for the nation’s subpar labor standards since the 2010 nomination. In June 2012, HRW published a 146-page report documenting Qatar’s migrant labor abuses. Exploitive recruitment practices, unfair working conditions, and the sponsorship system’s many redounding effects are amongst the violations perpetuated by Qatar’s deficient labor regulations.

ITUC also announced intentions to “build a presence” in the Gulf region. ITUC representatives held talks with a number of government officials in Doha last week to procure pledges to migrant labor rights. For example, representatives noted that Qatar's laws currently prohibit migrant workers from forming trade unions, though labor minister Nasser bin Abdulla Alhumidi guaranteed a timely reversal of this law.

ITUC recognizes that these reforms should have been instituted prior to Qatar’s nomination, as nations tend to default on labor commitments in the absence of incentives – in this case, the prospect of both significant profits and prestige could have prompted Qatar to initiate tangible labor reforms had FIFA required hosting nations to evidence their compliance with international labor standards. According to Sharan Burrow:

We would be appalled if the [IOC] followed the example of FIFA and awarded a major sporting event before the government has genuinely changed its laws and its practice in regard to treatment of migrant workers.

ITUC launched a petition here, alleging that “more people will die building Qatar’s World Cup stadiums than will play in the World Cup.” The page includes a video interview with migrant workers that highlights personal stories of abuse and exploitation in Qatar (below).

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