The Government of Nepal has criticised both the Qatari government and FIFA for failing to grant leave to Nepalese workers who needed to fly home to attend funerals of their beloved ones killed by the Richter 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25.
This is the first time the Nepalese government voiced its frustration at the notoriously publicised medieval working conditions of migrant workers from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and many other poorer nations.
Speaking to The Guardian, the Nepalese labour minister Tek Bahadur Gurung revealed that even FIFA and its rich sponsors failed to respond to the former’s request to intervene into the plight of its citizens participating in Qatar’s monstrous construction boom.
“After the earthquake of 25 April, we requested all companies in Qatar to give their Nepalese workers special leave and pay for their air fare home. While workers in some sectors of the economy have been given this, those on World Cup construction sites are not being allowed to leave because of the pressure to complete projects on time,” Guardian quoted him as saying.
The International Trade Union Confederation recently launched a campaign called Play Fair Qatar to shame FIFA sponsors with the confirmed deaths of 1420 helpless migrant workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh between 2012 to 2014. It claims that’s 40 deaths a month and warns each game of the 2022 World Cup tournament will have killed at least 62 migrants under the current circumstances.
Nepalese abroad remit some US $4 billion a year to the Himalayan nation but Gurung indicated that the time has come when the Nepalese government may not look at that part of the equation only.
Earlier, a Nepalese businessman in Qatar said that while it is fair to ask for leave in such tragic circumstances, Nepalese people should not forget that the employers cannot let go of everyone at the same time.
The Doha-based businessman whose name southasia.com.au cannot reveal urged not to blow the issue out of proportion. “You know how things are with Nepalese people. We tend to misuse everything,” he said referring to rumours that even those who have not been affected by the earthquake were trying to return home at the expense of the employers. “How can the companies let go of everyone at the same time? So far as my limited knowledge is concerned, I have seen people being granted leave and tickets but they cannot let go of everyone,” he said.
The Nepalese minister suggested Qatar’s refusal to send the quake-affected labourers back home is adding salt to their wounds, “They have lost relatives and their homes and are enduring very difficult conditions in Qatar. This is adding to their suffering.”
On Thursday, human rights group Amnesty International came down heavily on Qatar for failing to fulfil its promise of improving the working conditions of the migrant workers.
“Qatar is failing migrant workers. Last year the government made promises to improve migrant labour rights in Qatar, but in practice, there have been no significant advances in the protection of rights,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf migrant rights researcher at Amnesty International.
Nepal alone is said to have 400,000 workers in Qatar. At the current death rate, human rights organisations predict some 4000 migrant workers will die by the time Qatar’s World Cup stadium is filled with the soccer spectators from across the world in 2022.