The FIFA World Cup in Qatar has come under fire again with a new report that says North Korean migrant workers on World Cup construction sites are part of a system labeled "state-sponsored slavery."

By SI Wire
November 07, 2014

North Korean migrant laborers working on construction sites for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar receive as little as 10 percent of what they're due and sometimes are paid nothing, reports The Guardian.

According to the report, which cites testimony from workers and defectors, the North Korean government collects wages due to laborers, who work under the expectation they will be paid upon returning to North Korea, usually after three years of work. But the government instead uses most, if not all, of the money to bolster the country's economy.

The report refers to the practice as "state-sponsored slavery." From The Guardian:

One North Korean worker helping to build the high-rise said: “People like us don’t usually get paid. The money does not come to the person directly. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the [North Korean recruitment] company’s business.”

“The descriptions of the conditions North Korean workers endure in Qatar – abuse of vulnerability, withholding of wages and excessive overtime – are highly indicative of state-sponsored trafficking for forced labour,” a modern form of slavery, said Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International.

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As many as 3,000 North Koreans could be part of the system, according to the report, with a Qatari official saying 2,800 North Koreans are registered as guest workers. North Korea, whose authoritarian government has faced severe criticism for human rights abuses, reportedly has as many as 65,000 laborers working abroad, with the government employing the same system of wage control in other countries as well as Qatar.

The migrant worker system for World Cup construction in Qatar has already come under fire for alleged worker abuse. Migrant workers reportedly face exploitation, non-payment of wages and inhumane conditions, and the Qatari government admitted to almost 1,000 fatalities among migrant workers earlier this year. The alleged worker abuse has led to calls to have the 2022 World Cup moved from Qatar.

The decision to allow Qatar host the World Cup has been controversial for other reasons as well. The extreme temperatures in the country, which potentially reach 120 degrees in June, has led FIFA to consider holding the tournament in the winter or spring instead of summer and/or shifting the gameplay schedule.

Potential corruption, bribery and other ethical violations in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has also led to criticism of Qatar's bid. FIFA recently completed an investigation into the claims and is expected to deliver a preliminary report of the findings in November.

Ben Estes


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