(AE) QATAR: MEPs call for action over slavery in Qatar


Brussels, 20/11/2013 (Agence Europe) – On 19 November, the heads of the political groups of the European Parliament condemned the conditions under which foreigners are working in Qatar, including workers building the stadia for the 2022 football World Cup. A plenary debate on the subject will be held on Thursday 21 November and an emergency resolution will be put to the vote on the same day. The leader of the S&D group at the EP, Hannes Swoboda, called for a delegation of MEPs to visit the country to “draft a report to have a clearer view of the situation”.

Pointing out that the employees belong to their employers and may not leave Qatar without their permission, the vice-president of the Greens/EFA Group, Daniel Cohn Bendit, stormed: “This is a scandal and nobody is saying anything about it (…). The Qataris are buying everybody, which means that we are accepting slavery”. He called for everybody who campaigned for the World Cup to be held in Qatar, including the former French footballers Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini, to get involved. “If they opened their mouths a bit, maybe at the very least (…) we could stop 21st-century slavery in Qatar”, he argued.

Swoboda also said that he was “very worried” about the way migrants are treated, which he described as “unacceptable”. “Abuses of our committed against migrant workers, who are often compared to animals, slaves, this is a serious situation”, he said. “The situation for workers building the stadia is beyond scandalous. They have virtually built prison camps, forced labour camps for people who are paid almost nothing, housed in terrible conditions, with restrictions on their freedom, this is unacceptable”, said Patrick Le Hyaric on behalf of the GUE.

Stating that the emergency resolution should not call for a boycott, Swoboda nonetheless said that, if nothing changes, it could be a good idea to pull out. “We need to find a way of putting pressure on so that, if things continue, it will not be possible to play in stadia built by people being forced to live in these conditions, this is a human solidarity issue”, Le Hyaric stated.

Last week, Michael Mann, the spokesperson to the High Representative, said that the EU was “concerned” by reports containing allegations of ill treatment. “The EU has always argued in favour of more decisive legislation and executive measures to be taken (…) to regulate the situation for migrant workers, which, in spite of progress made in recent years, still requires a few adjustments in line with the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and working together with the countries of origin of the foreign workers”. Mann welcomed the initiative of the authorities to carry out an in-depth investigation into these allegations. “We await their conclusions, which should help the authorities to remedy the shortcomings”, he added, stating that the EU welcomed the commitment of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee to ensure equal treatment for workers and to follow subsequent developments very closely.

The organisation Amnesty International has spoken out against the “alarming” exploitation of immigrant workers, calling on FIFA to bring pressure to bear on Qatar to improve conditions. It is believed that 44 workers have lost their lives on the building sites of the World Cup. European citizens have also found themselves stranded in the country following disputes with their employers, who refused to let them leave. (CG/transl.fl)

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