Calls grow to give migrant workers their due in World Cup host Qatar

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October 20, 2022

Kathmandu – Migrant worker Rup Chandra Rumba died in his sleep in Qatar on June 23, 2019. The 24-year-old from Makwanpur in central Nepal was working at the construction site of one of the stadiums being construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. rest on November 20.

Rumba’s cause of death was stated as “acute cardiorespiratory failure due to natural causes”, according to British newspaper The Guardian. His body was brought back to Nepal two weeks after his death.

Hundreds of young and healthy Nepalese have lost their lives in foreign countries, but no one knows exactly why.

Money sent home by migrant workers like Rumba has crossed the 1 trillion rupees mark. Remittances, which are equivalent to nearly a quarter of GDP, are crucial to Nepal’s economy.

This money has improved the economic condition of tens of thousands of Nepalese.

Rumba used to send home between Rs 25,000 and 30,000 every month, according to his widow Nirmala Pakhrin, who now lives with her parents in Hetauda.

Since Rumba’s death, his family has been thrown back into financial distress. Pakhrin manages to make ends meet by working as a bricklayer or farm laborer, whatever job comes her way.

“I earn around Rs 5,000 a month,” Pakhrin told the Post by phone. The income is barely enough to feed his family. She has a 10 year old son who goes to a local school.

Tens of thousands of young Nepalese like Rumba are forced to seek employment abroad due to lack of opportunities at home. Many die in distant lands.

Since 2008-09, more than 11,200 Nepalese migrant workers have died and more than 2,200 have been injured in work destinations, according to the Foreign Employment Board, the government agency charged with looking after their welfare.

Among them, 1,479 workers lost their lives in the last financial year ending in mid-July 2022, the highest number of annual deaths recorded so far.

The families of the deceased receive compensation. The immediate family is receiving a sum of Rs 700,000 through the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund. Workers who sustain serious injuries or become disabled get up to 700,000 rupees.

However, not all families of the deceased are compensated. Insiders say there are thousands of undocumented Nepalese in foreign countries and in case of death or injury, their families receive nothing.

A survey by The Guardian last year showed that of the 6,500 South Asian migrant workers who lost their lives in Qatar over the past decade, as many as 1,641 were from Nepal.

An average of 12 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died each week since December 2010, when Qatar was named host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a reported the British newspaper.

In this file photo, workers are seen inside the Al Bayt Stadium built for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, during a tour of the stadium, in Al Khor, north of Doha, in Qatar on December 17, 2019. Reuters

International human rights organisations, migrant rights groups, trade unions and supporters around the world have called on FIFA to establish with Qatar a fund equivalent to the World Cup prize, 440 million dollars, to compensate the migrant workers who built the stadiums and other infrastructure. for the football tournament.

“Violation of employment contracts by employers is commonplace in overseas employment,” said Rameshwar Nepal, executive director of Equidem Research Nepal, a human rights and labor rights research organization.

Many workers were paid less than agreed in the contract, he said.

Although employers say they do not charge recruitment fees, it is evident that many workers have paid a huge amount of money to get overseas jobs.

There are cases where workers are forced to work overtime without being paid more.

“Rights activists demand that employers in Qatar pay workers their rightful wages. This is a temporary initiative where the World Cup is taking place,” Nepal said. “The ultimate goal is to empower foreign labor companies.”

Neither Qatar nor FIFA have made any commitments regarding the creation of the fund, according to the Associated Press, but a senior FIFA official told European lawmakers last Thursday that football’s governing body is in favor of the fund. compensation for workers injured during the World Cup. Related projects.

Pay is “certainly something we want to advance,” FIFA deputy general secretary Alasdair Bell told a Council of Europe session on workers’ rights in Qatar last week.

“It is important to try to ensure that anyone who has suffered an injury as a result of participating in the World Cup is repaired in one way or another.

On Monday, FIFA spokesman Bryan Swanson told a press conference in Doha that the world body was talking to the Qatari government, the UN employment agency and international trade unions . He promised an announcement “in due course”, according to Agence France-Presse.

“FIFA maintains a continuous positive dialogue with the International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation and all relevant authorities in Qatar on initiatives that will benefit migrant workers in Qatar long after the last match of the World Cup,” said Swanson said.

Last month, international human rights organizations said corporate partners of FIFA and sponsors of the 2022 World Cup should pressure the world football association and the Qatari government to they provide compensation and other remedies to migrant workers and their families who have suffered death or injury, wage theft, or debt. illegal recruitment fees.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FairSquare released a joint statement after a majority of 17,500 participants from 15 countries said in a survey that corporate partners and sponsors of FIFA should publicly ask football’s highest governing body to compensate migrant workers.

“Although I have shared my story with many media outlets, I have yet to receive any compensation from my husband’s employer, the government of Qatar or any other organization,” Pakhrin said.

Labor migration experts and migrant rights activists say the redress fund is a necessary step and needs to be implemented effectively.

“A compensation fund needs to be established,” said Ganesh Gurung, a labor migration expert. “Besides fatalities and injuries, migrant workers in Qatar have also faced issues of breach of contract, as many workers are sent home before their contract ends.”

On August 16 last year, the Qatar Public Works Authority issued Circular 2021/42 which instructed companies to complete all construction work by September 21, 2022 and plan for furloughing workers. which would reduce the total number of workers in Qatar until January 18. 2023, according to Human Rights Watch.

Gurung said the Nepalese government, in coordination with FIFA, should have worked proactively to establish such a fund which would help affected workers. “FIFA should also have taken the initiative to set up the fund and get employers to contribute as much as possible.”

An average of 12 workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died every week for a decade after Qatar was named host of the football tournament. Shutterstock

Government officials, however, say they have “strongly” raised the issues of migrant workers.

“All these issues fall under ensuring a decent working environment for migrant workers, and we discussed them with Qatar during the last joint committee meeting,” said Dandu Raj Ghimire, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor. Labour, Employment and Social Security. “The response has been positive.”

According to Ghimire, Nepal will participate in any initiative involving the welfare of migrant workers.

Jeevan Baniya, deputy director of the Center for Labor and Mobility Studies, Social Science Baha, a non-profit organization involved in social science research in Nepal, said the compensation would greatly benefit many families who have lost loved ones while contributing to Qatar. dream projects.

“It would also set a precedent for other labor destination countries where migrant workers face similar challenges,” Baniya said.

However, there are questions regarding the clarity of the request for the pooled fund and its implementation.

“While advocating for the creation of such a fund is a positive approach from the perspective of migrants’ countries of origin, there is no clarity as to whom Qatar should compensate through the basket of compensation. fund,” Baniya said.

According to Nepal, Executive Director of Equidem Research Nepal, what human rights and migrant rights organizations seek is a commitment to address injustices and abuses.

“It is a long process and may require investigations and even the modification of laws and regulations,” Nepal said. “But for now, we want the authorities to at least commit to setting up the fund.”

Under international pressure, Qatar set up a worker support fund that since 2020 has paid $164 million in compensation to more than 36,000 workers from 17 countries, Human Rights Watch said in August, citing government data.

The international human rights organization says efforts are not enough.

“In recent years, Qatar has introduced a series of significant reforms following a complaint of forced labor to the International Labor Organization, and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Inheritance has offered better protection to those who build stadiums,” Human Rights Watch said.

Nevertheless, serious labor abuses persist across the country, and past abuses have not been adequately addressed.

“The issue requires a bilateral approach for effective implementation,” Baniya added.

” I lost everything. Financial aid would definitely help me and my family,” Pakhrin said.

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