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Kin Cheung, Associated Press

2022 World Cup host Qatar under fire for labor 'abuses'

The 2022 World Cup is still nine years away, but the tournament’s host country, Qatar, is now under pressure to change its ways because of its human rights and work "abuses."

As first reported by The Guardian in September, Qatar, with a population of nearly two million people and an area about the size of Rhode Island, was "exploiting" thousands of workers in the early stages of construction for the popular sporting event. The Guardian’s report outlined the conditions for workers, many of whom are Nepalese, that included some not receiving water or sleep.

Many of these migrant workers can’t leave the country, according to The Guardian. The country operates under a “kafala” system, requiring migrant workers to have a sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their legal and work status. The Guardian called this "modern-day slavery as defined by the International Labour Organisation (sic)."

On Sunday, a day before the third anniversary of the announcement of Qatar as host of the tournament, international trade union leaders said there was no improvement to the “living and working conditions of migrant workers,” according to sports author Keir Radnedge.

If conditions are not improved, it could "leave 4,000 migrant workers dead," according to The Guardian.

Radnedge also reported that Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said that “international pressure is growing after governments, human rights organisations (sic) and FIFA all called for fundamental workers’ rights and an end to the kafala system.”

The ITUC spent four days in the country, Radnedge wrote. “The 11-member international delegation held worker hearings and reported itself ‘shocked’ by what it said were increasing numbers of women and children in detention centres and rising discontent and unrest of workers in ‘squalid’ labour camps.”

FIFPro, the international governing body of soccer players, also called for Qatar to abolish its kafala system, according to Gulf News.

“FIFPro, as the representative of all professional footballers worldwide, will be heard loud and clear,” FIFPro delegate Mads Oland said after a meeting Saturday with Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee.

Human rights and working conditions aren’t the only criticisms Qatar has garnered in relation to the tournament. Because the World Cup is traditionally played in summer, many have spoken out about how the high temperatures of a Qatar summer will affect both players and fans. There has been talk, according to ESPN FC, of Qatar moving the World Cup to the winter months, if the country agrees.

But not everyone has spoken out against the Qataris. Phil Ball, a writer for ESPN FC, recently praised the host nation after taking an all-expenses-paid trip to the country. His article was later taken off ESPN FC’s main page.

Eric Goldschein of Sports Grid (note: first paragraph contains some profanity) slammed Ball for his article, especially pointing out Ball's avoidance of the human-rights issues.

“Smoothing over the deaths of dozens of people with one of those ‘lame excuses’ he claims not to have proffered is leaps and bounds too far,” wrote Goldschein.

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com Twitter: @hscribner