In the unlikely event that FIFA’s hierarchy would react to political pressure, soccer’s governing body would likely act on The Guardian’s report that Qatar is using “state sponsored slaves” on construction sites inside World Cup cities.
While the report doesn’t say that the workers, essentially on loan from the North Korean government, are building World Cup stadia in Lusail City — home of the 2022 World Cup final — it does deepen previous reports of gross civil rights issues in Qatar.
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For those unaware, the 2022 World Cup hasn’t exactly been directing volumes of positivity towards Qatar and FIFA. And great news, if you’re one of the lucky North Korean workers to land a poor-paying slave-comparable job in Qatar, you get to work longer than everyone else.
In the sprawling construction zone that will eventually become Qatar’s gleaming $45bn (£28bn) Lusail City, where the 2022 World Cup final will be held, four construction sites are said to be using North Korean workers, although there is no suggestion they are involved in building World Cup stadiums.
On one site, North Koreans battled biting desert sands and searing heat to construct a luxury residential tower. They laboured on as day turned to night, long after workers from other nationalities had left the site.
One North Korean worker helping to build the high-rise said: “People like us don’t usually get paid. The money does not come to the person directly. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the [North Korean recruitment] company’s business.”
A project manager of the lavish development said the workers “don’t have a single rial themselves” and “borrow money from us if they need small things like cigarettes”.
Where can we sign up?!? Then there’s this official quote from a Qatari government spokesperson:
“We take all issues around worker payment extremely seriously. There are currently 2,800 North Korean guest workers registered in Qatar and we have no recorded complaints about their payment or treatment. Qatar is determined to continually improve labour conditions for all who work in the country, and will continue to work with NGOs, businesses and other governments to achieve this.”
Okay, nevermind. No one’s complained. In a slave-like labor situation. Sounds about right.
Even if there was a genuine witch hunt to force the World Cup from Qatar, FIFA would still have to look into stories like this. But as we’ve seen with Turf Gate and the unreleased documents pertaining to the investigation of corruption in Qatar earning the 2022 World Cup, FIFA is very slow to act when it has the power. And if they are willing to host a tournament that screws up the international calendar — something that directly affects the bottom line — it’s hard to think these reports are going to tip the scales.