Lodging a note of protest against Qatar, host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Denmark’s football team on Wednesday (October 5) said it would travel to the West Asian country without any family members accompanying them.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) wants to minimise activity in Qatar as part of protests against the country’s human rights record — in sharp focus with the mega sporting event due to begin in late November. “We don’t want to contribute to creating profit for Qatar,” DBU communications manager Jakob Hoyer told local newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Reuters reported.
Similarly, when releasing the latest world cup kits a few days ago, the team’s kit maker, Hummel, shared black jerseys’ images on Instagram, adding it was the “colour of mourning”, and supporting the Danish team should not be confused with “support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.”
Last year, DBU said it was in talks with its sponsors to not have their branding on the jersey for the tournament. Jakob Jensen, President of the Danish Football Association, told BBC Sport, “We have written to the Qatari authorities and to Fifa to explain the difference between the facts they present and the facts Amnesty presents”.
Jensen was referring to a 2021 Amnesty report that said thousands of migrant workers in Qatar were still being exploited while working in the construction of stadiums and other World Cup-related infrastructure. Jensen said they planned to speak with the associations of other countries, including the English Football Association (EFA), for forming a coalition critical of Qatar’s policies. The EFA later echoed the concerns.
There have been long-standing concerns from countries across the world over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, many of whom come from countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal in search of better employment prospects. It is estimated that “non-Qataris”, as migrants are called by the Qatari government, compose around 70 per cent of the Gulf nation’s population.
Interestingly, Qatar’s bid for hosting the World Cup was in itself controversial, given the average summer temperature in Qatar is close to 50 degrees celsius – a reason why the games have shifted from a summer schedule to winter this year.
Qatar’s World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), have disputed that the tournament caused the deaths of thousands of workers. The Qatari government has said it is working to improve the system but rubbished the 2021 Amnesty report.
Further, The Guardian’s report in 2021 concluded that 6,500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010 when the world cup was announced. “The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations [India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka] have died each week since the night in December 2010,” said The Guardian’s report. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), of which India is a founding member, has also said Qatar is not adequately reporting worker deaths.
The ILO report said: “There is a need to review the approach taken to investigating deaths of seemingly healthy young workers from “natural causes”, to be able to determine whether they are in fact work-related, and ensure more accurate identification of the cause…to ensure workers’ families receive due compensation.”
Organisations like the ILO say not enough has been done by the Qatari government to protect workers, many of whom are working at construction sites during high temperatures days. It counted deaths due to heart attacks and respiratory issues as part of worker deaths, the BBC reported. Amnesty’s report also said that new laws meant to protect workers were not enforced properly.
The spokesperson for the Qatar World Cup organiser said they had “always been transparent about the health and safety of workers,” The Guardian reported. He added: “Since construction began in 2014, there have been three work-related fatalities and 35 non-work-related deaths. The SC has investigated each case, learning lessons to avoid any repeat in the future. The SC has disclosed each incident through public statements and or annual workers’ welfare progress reports.”
Al Jazeera, a Qatari government-owned media organisation, quoted Khaled al-Suwaidi, a senior member of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, as saying, “There has been a lot of improvement, we’ve used the World Cup as a catalyst for that change”.
In 2020, some reforms were introduced. The first centred around abolishing the ‘kafala system’ or requirement for a “no objection certificate” that migrant workers needed to get from their employers before changing jobs. Now, workers must serve a one-month notice period if they have worked for less than two years and a notice period of two months if they have worked longer.
The second reform was on increasing the minimum wage by 25 per cent to $274 or 1000 Qatari riyals and additional money for food and accommodation if not provided by the company. These reforms are now applicable to workers of all nationalities across sectors, including previously-excluded domestic workers.