Black patches in Qatar are not seen by the media and cameras, there in the industrial area far from the wealthy neighbourhoods of Doha find a large number of migrant workers in the country.
Months before hosting the FIFA World Cup, The Independent visited the region, which is one of the most important parts of the booming Gulf state, but it rarely appears on the tourist track and does not attract visitors from abroad.
Up to 800,000 Asian and African workers, mainly employed as construction workers and security guards, live in the industrial area.
Hidden behind parked cars, piles of scrap metal and abandoned trucks, men stagger in the dark next to illegal alcohol sellers who serve customers who pay in cash.
The British newspaper reveals the difficulty of working for these workers, many are not paid on time and some are harassed by employers, yet they form the backbone of the blossoming Qatari economy.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Inheritance, the government body responsible for overseeing the construction of World Cup infrastructure, did not respond to the Independent’s requests for interviews and requests to visit labour camps.
According to the newspaper, migrant workers have addicted alcohol they buy from regular or home-made liquor networks to migrant workers who want to drink to forget their reality.
Ugandese Albert, 29, landed in Qatar four years ago and has regularly seen those attending the Industrial Zone known among workers as “California”, or “The Field”.
Albert (pseudonym), a security man, said, “A lot of workers here get hooked on alcohol and never fully recover. Every Thursday night, fights break out because guys come back to their dorms drunk.”
In the summer, workers often die of heatstroke after falling asleep outside drunk after an evening at The Field,” he tells The Independent.
Albert states: “Another worker who is no longer paid by his company and fell into alcohol,” he says quietly, recalling numerous suicide attempts among foreign workers in the Industrial Area.
Youssouf and Ahmed, both from Togo, believe that wages in arrears violate Qatar’s labour laws, but say they may be political to control workers.
In August 2020, Qatar boasted that it had abolished a highly criticized labour management system known as “kafala”, which gives employers enormous control over employees and often known as modern slavery.
The 2022 World Cup hosts claimed to have introduced a series of labour reforms, with groups such as the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Football Federation (FIFA) overseeing the World Cup commending those reforms.
However, Togolese workers Youssouf and Ahmed, who have lived in Qatar for years, have seen few benefit since the reforms were announced.
They indicated that if they spoke to their employer about their rights or filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, they will end up returning them to their country.
International rights organizations often criticize the gas-rich Gulf emirate for the conditions in which hundreds of thousands of workers work at construction sites for large facilities that will host one of the world’s most important sporting events.
Earlier this month, following accusations that Qatar was not respecting their rights, Amnesty International demanded that FIFA pay $440 million in compensation to foreign workers who were “abused” in Qatar while participating in the construction of the 2022 World Cup stadiums.
In contrast, Doha rejects those accusations and confirms that it has undertaken reforms to the State’s labour system.
Elsewhere in Doha, security guard Dominic remains bedridden, staying in a cluttered room with four families and four cupboards.
Dominic’s ankles were broken after a work-related accident, where he performed multiple surgeries, however, he is still required to work standing up for several hours straight.
“ I asked my company to get a job that fits my current physical condition, but they have nothing else available. In the meantime, they refuse to pay my medical bills and stopped sending my salary while I still have to complete four months of rehabilitation after surgeries.”
In fact, the Government of Qatar’s allegations of reforms in labour laws and improvement of workers’ conditions appear to be different. Suffering persists and workers’ conditions are at rock bottom amid widespread debauchery due to poor conditions, while Doha is still glorifying with illusory reforms.
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