In the simmering month of February 2021, The Guardian published a detailed report on the climbing death of more than 6500 migrant workers since Qatar heralded its right to host the World Cup in 2010. The calculated reality meant that 12 migrant workers from nations like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka had died weekly since the cheerful crowds cried in glee in 2010. With faces given to statistics, the article read like a statistical obituary of names that would otherwise remain buried under the grandeur of hosting the World Cup in 2022.
Under such shadows of statistics that show the ethical grimace of Qatar, the case needs uncovering. The phrasal number 6500 needs detailing. The grim reality for the families of these deceased workers needs space in the conversation while shedding light on the reactions by FIFA and the artists that declined to perform in the opening ceremony of the much-awaited World Cup 2022.
What is the in-depth image of the number 6500?
The glitter, glory and glam of hosting the World Cup in 2022 meant that a polished infrastructure of the best roads, airports, and hotels would follow suit, apart from the stadiums and significant projects required. Massive construction meant unprecedented projects that demanded an enormous workforce. But is 6500 an accurate number that equates to Qatar hosting the World Cup? Speculation seems to hold the conversation surrounding this as a causal effect issue.
Due to the demanding projects that arose from the honour of hosting, the consequent effect was the influx of workers from other nations. Marking the growing numbers of deaths were articles like “Have 1,200 World Cup workers really died in Qatar?” by BBC News in 2015. The projected speculation of cause-and-effect phenomena seems likely since the deaths occurred due to the boom in construction projects. The inevitable migration of these workers was stamped in by the soaring demand.
The problem is two-fold. Lack of documentation in these deaths, categorically, is a pressing issue. Technicality can wipe records clean, although, realistically, the deaths seem correlated. In a direct link to the construction of World Cup stadiums, The Guardian records it as 37 deaths. But this erases thousands who have died in related projects since the bid to host World Cup 2022.
Moreover, since technicality is a curious key, 34 deaths have been dismissed since they died at the job site, a neglect that is the second axe of the two-fold.
The subsequent context lies in the harmful conditions of the migrant workers documented in articles like “World Cup 2022: How have Qatar treated foreign workers?” BBC News.
The congested and tin canned reality of living spaces, doubled with colossal recruitment fees and confiscated passports, do not assure quality in the ethics of the working conditions.
Moreover, despite claims to make changes in the “kafala” sponsorship system, this has done little to ease the concrete realities of these workers. Under this sponsorship system, migrant workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission. These conditions were vividly accused in 2016 by the Rights Group Amnesty International.
With such complications, the deduced reality is that, even if the workers did not die actively in the work sites, the culmination of the living conditions was overlooked. The lack of certainty in succinct statistics for the number 6500 appears as an issue in ascertaining the cause/s of death.
Turning a Blind Eye to the Cause of High Death Rates
As visited and revisited in various articles by The Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets, the lack of information accompanies the high death rate surrounding these grim cases. Coldly and casually, natural causes are the reason for this high rate of 70% of death cases. With ways to cut down on time, money and even sensitivity to the deaths, the reality is that there is no autopsy or medical examinations to produce the actual cause of death. Yet, the clear and present data shows that these workers who died of natural causes (like the 34 in World Cup stadium sites) fell in the age group of 20 to 40.
Personalizing such hard, gritty statistics, The Guardian has recorded testimonies like the family of Madhu Bollapally in India, who “have never understood how the healthy 43-year old died of ‘natural causes’ while working in Qatar.” (“Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded”)
At the heart of such cold-cut data is that officials at various levels seem to have turned a blind eye to investigating these deaths, no matter how high the number rose. Reality can hold highly contrasting numbers of undocumented death cases. The corner that the Qatar government resides in these speculations is the same: that these are perfectly normal statistics in the face of how large their migrant work staff is, and claims inconsistency in the numbers of death. Despite their claim that foreign nationals and citizens alike can access first-class healthcare, this does not account for negligence in working and living conditions that put these migrant workers at a disadvantage. The Guardian records, “There is a real lack of clarity and transparency surrounding these deaths… There is a need for Qatar to strengthen its occupational health and safety standards”, as stated by an Amnesty International researcher.
Grim Conundrum sans Compensation?
Qatar’s ethical grimace serves an even sterner look when one looks at ways (or lack thereof) in how the nation has tried to mitigate and compensate the families of these migrant workers who have lost the sole or primary bread earner in many of these cases. The mystery of death, as prosaic as it may be, deserves logical answers in the case of these families who lost a loved one that was aiding them. The situation arms itself with a lack of clarity about these deaths. The double plunge is the absence of compensation provided to these families. The families are silenced in their qualms for explanations and payment, as their loved ones are treated as numbers in some statistical data required for this construction boom. The problem is equally devastating in its delivery and its silence for valid questions.
Maintaining a self-proclaimed neutrality, FIFA wrote to the 32 teams that football should be the focus (“World Cup 2022: How has Qatar treated foreign workers?” by BBC News). Additionally, the organizing body gave official, and vacuum promises about safety measures for the workers on the job sites directly linked to the World Cup of 2022. They have also maintained that the number of deaths on-site is low compared to more extensive construction sites worldwide, without any evidence to highlight the claim. The forced neutrality, on the part of FIFA, in the situation stands despite heavy criticisms and speculations about corruption.
Artists Bidding a Conscientious Adieu to Perform in the World Cup 2022
Amid the cries and cheers of football fans in stadiums, pubs, and homes, the ritual of an exciting opening ceremony has been a favourite go-to for various enthusiastic viewers. The widely-criticized choice of hosting the World Cup 2022 in Qatar has seeped into the conversations and debates about artists opting out from performing in the opening ceremony or the event as a whole. Moral dignity in the face of having a public platform holds sway in the contentious dialogues that involve Qatar’s stance on various issues, including the death of migrant workers.
Shakira, a seasoned performer at the World Cup events, silently declined to perform at the opening ceremony. There has been no official statement since. Dua Lipa, rumoured to have been requested to be a part of the opening ceremony, denied such claims in her Instagram story.
The argument supporting human rights and dismay over the controversies read,
“I will not be performing and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiation to perform. I will be cheering England on from afar. I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup.”
(“Shakira Quietly Cancelled Her Qatar World Cup Performance—Why Other Celebs Are Also Boycotting the FIFA Championship” by Style Caster) Rod Stewart, who was asked to be a part of the event, detailed his decline by releasing a statement: “They offered me a huge amount of money, over a million dollars for the performance, but I turned it down because I don’t think it’s right to go to a country with those ideas and values…” (“FIFA World Cup 2022: Dua Lipa, Shakira among artists who have refused to perform in Qatar’s opening ceremony” by Hindustan Times)
It has been confirmed that artists such as J Balvin, Robbie Williams, Jason Derulo, Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, Nora Fatehi, Black Eyed Peas, Jungkook of BTS, Nicki Minaj, Maluma, and Myriam Fares will perform at the event. Despite this, the overall narrative follows a debate that inspires a cause to concede that the controversies hold weight in the conversation about human rights issues.
One Too Many? The Ethical Conversation
The ethical whispers have sparked outrage and caused multiple ripples of varying debates in degrees of neutrality to dismay. A critical factor in these issues has been the start of an ethical conversation in various circles tied by the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
Although FIFA has taken a neutral stance, many football associations, like England and Wales, have expressed their concern saying that “Human rights are universal and they apply everywhere.” (“World Cup 2022: 10 European football associations respond to Fifa’s ‘focus on football’ letter” by BBC News) Additionally, even Australian players have voiced their criticism by calling for an “effective remedy” for migrant workers and the decriminalization of same-sex relationships through a video (“Australia players criticize human rights record of hosts Qatar in video” by BBC News).
In reaction to the looming debates, FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave an “explosive press conference” claiming that Europe cannot hold moral high ground over Qatar and “should apologize to the world for 3000 years.” (“Europe should apologize for next 3000 years: FIFA president Infantino’s explosive remarks ahead of World Cup” by India Today)
The overall context of the response was calling out the alleged hypocrisy. The consequent reaction in commentary circles on media sites like YouTube is worth adding. Content creators like Aba and Preach have stated that there is room for both ethical conversations: Europeans owing retribution for their actions and criticizing Qatar for its stance on human rights issues. Overall, the death of migrant workers in massive numbers has sparked an ethical conversation focusing on the narrative of human rights.