A Bleak Look at the Life of Migrant Workers Building Qatar's World Cup

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Workers sleeping 12 to a room without access to clean water. Young men dying from heart attacks due to the extreme heat. One man who has been trying to leave for five years, except his passport was taken by his boss, who has disappeared. It's the latest and most heartbreaking news on the highly controversial World Cup planned for Qatar in 2022.

Earlier this year, the International Trade Union Confederation released a scathing report that, due to unsafe construction methods and deplorable working conditions, up to 4,000 workers could die before construction is complete, with over 1,200 deaths already confirmed. In April, organizers announced that they were canceling four of the 12 planned stadiums (citing cost-cutting measures, by the way).

And that's not even all of the problems plaguing the games. Yesterday, the FIFA vice president said he'd consider a revote on the host city after allegations that Qatar fraudulently bought the World Cup with $5 million in secret payments.


Even before FIFA's revelations, several publications had been conducting investigative reports. Reporters from The Daily Record spent weeks documenting the conditions in the worker camps, and the stories and images are easily the most disturbing we've seen yet.

Here are just a few of the most horrific facts of life for migrant workers at a camp a half-hour drive from Doha, Qatar's largest city:

  • No access to toilets or clean water: "There was an overpowering smell of excrement as we arrived. There were no Western-style toilets but holes in the floor. Others washed themselves using buckets of water. Salty water was used for drinking and washing."
  • According to a labor representative, employees are more likely to die from heart attacks or heat stress than industrial accidents: "He said men as young as 25 were dying from heart attacks because of their working and living conditions."
  • The workers are trapped due to Qatar's kafala system: "Workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their boss's permission. Some revealed that their employers had not paid them for months but they could not change jobs. Many have not seen their families for years."
  • And perhaps the most depressing fact: Per capita, Qatar is the richest nation on earth. [The Daily Record]