Every day Nepalese workers venture to the Gulf States in search of a better life. Some of these workers will not survive. Those who do receive little or no wages and are given virtually no freedom – all the ingredients of modern, organised slavery. From Nepal to Qatar, FRANCE 24 went to investigate why young people who left in good health could die in such large numbers on the building sites of the 2022 World Cup.
Our report begins with a shocking image: the coffins that arrive every day at Kathmandu airport. Inside are the bodies of Nepalese labourers who went to work in the Gulf States. In 2013, 173 Nepalese workers died in Qatar of accidents, suicides and mysterious heart attacks, according to the Nepalese government.
Our investigation begins in the remote villages of Nepal, one of the poorest countries on the planet. Every Nepalese family sends at least one of its members to work in the Arabian Peninsula. In Kathmandu, we filmed the incredible queues of workers getting ready to leave. We wanted to tell their story, and decided to fly to Qatar with a group of these workers.
Several journalists reporting on the Nepalese workers have been arrested and expelled from the emirate, which will host the 2022 World Cup and does not want any bad publicity. So in Doha we pretended to be tourists. We managed to film the building sites and talk to the workers. At night, we visited the dilapidated houses in which the workers live in cramped conditions and where the summer temperature is around 50 degrees Celsius. Many suffer from dehydration and diseases. These are appalling living conditions for one of the world's richest countries.
More shocking still, we met workers who can no longer leave Qatar. The Qatari labour code (kafala system) gives all the power to employers, who can confiscate passports and often pay salaries late, or not at all. In September 2013, the Nepali ambassador to Qatar was recalled to Kathmandu after she described Qatar as an “open jail” for Nepalese workers. In a report published in November 2013, Amnesty International described a situation akin to slavery. Under pressure from FIFA, the Qatari government announced reforms in February. But our report also shows that the government is not the only guilty party: shameless subcontractors in Qatar and fraudulent agents back in Nepal also take advantage of the Nepalese labourers. The International Trade Union Confederation estimates that if the living and working conditions do not change, over 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup.