Time still on Fifa’s side to end Qatar fiasco and take another route
As Fifa had some sparkling World Cup news to impart Nepalese workers were dying
Migrant labourers work on a construction site in Doha in Qatar.
Last June and a chirpy press release brought “news” of a fresh Fifa initiative: Fifa had agreed with the champagne producers, Taittinger, that its brand would be Fifa’s fizzy drink of choice for this year’s World Cup.
Taittinger positively sparkled. They proclaimed: “For the very first time in its history, a Champagne House is chosen by Fifa as the official champagne to be served to guests in Fifa’s VIP and VVIP areas.”
It gave the impression that those who populate VVIP areas must like their block capitals as well as their bubbles, as well as their bubble.
Great as it was for VIPs and Very VIPs, this “news” was delivered in the same month that another capital organisation, the International TUC – ITUC – brought some real stuff back from the building sites of Qatar. This was rather less sparkly. It was about death, inhuman conditions and trapped lives.
Last May, presumably as Fifa were talking to Taittinger about bubbles, ITUC said that 119 Nepalese workers had died on construction sites in Qatar in the previous nine months.
If that were the end of the story that would be enough: no sports event, regardless of whether or not it has Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane lending their personal credibility to it, is worth this level of human suffering.
We know, of course, that those Nepalese deaths were not the end of the story, there were young men from India too, and elsewhere.
Much of this has been hard to document due to Qatari secrecy over such sensitive details but ITUC said that the numbers of Indian deaths in Qatar in the first five months of 2013 came from figures obtained of bodies being returned home. The number was 83. None was a VVIP in Fifaville.
Krishn Bahadur Sarki was one of these workers. Sarki died on May 3rd last year. ITUC know this because his body was returned to Nepal on May 22nd.
Sarki had been in Qatar since July 2011. He shared an eight-bed dormitory with other workers but did not wake up on May 3rd.
He would not be the first worker to suffer a cardiac arrest in his sleep having worked in daily temperatures that average in excess of 40 degrees during the summer months.
Along with traffic and construction accidents, cardiac arrests brought on by heat, and other unexplained deaths during sleep, are the second-biggest killer of migrant workers in Qatar. The third is suicide.
Some workers leaving Nepal and elsewhere pay a repatriation bond before departure in case of death – they know they’re not going to the Promised Land.