“Criticizing your employer is already complicated, so for the exploited of … / Mondial 2022 / Documentaire / SOFOOT.com

“Criticizing your employer is already complicated, so for the exploited of ... / Mondial 2022 / Documentaire / SOFOOT.com

The kick-off of the World Cup in Qatar is approaching, while the issue of migrant workers’ rights is still at the center of concerns. Committed since 2010 and the awarding of the tournament to the Gulf State, Amnesty International is publishing a documentary this week, The Exploited of Qatar, based on testimonials from workers collected on site. Arnaud Constant, co-director alongside Nicolas Thomas and Lola Schulmann, advocacy officer within the NGO, detail their approach and hope for commitments from the competent authorities on the subject.

The subject of your documentary is obviously strong. What main constraints did you encounter?
Arnaud Constant: We are used to talking about human rights violations with victims, except that generally we are dealing with people who are used to speaking up. Here, we are talking about employees, workers. It’s complicated to get them to talk, at the risk of putting them at fault with their employer. For us French, it can already be complicated to criticize your employer, so for the exploited workers of Qatar, it is even more so. In addition, the concern was also to know how to stage and illustrate these testimonies. We had a double constraint of having to show human figures without identifying them. Hence this choice of drawings and animations.

“The concern was how to stage and illustrate these testimonies. We had a double constraint of having to show human figures without identifying them. Hence this choice of drawings and animations. » Arnaud Constant

How can you successfully distance yourself from these very strong testimonies?
AC: For once, as we based ourselves on testimonials already made by our researchers, we will say that it is a little less strong to hear. More generally, on all of our productions, at Amnesty we have a psychological follow-up that we can request as soon as we feel that it may be too hard.
How does Amnesty International manage to intervene in Qatar?
Lola Schulmann: We have been active in Qatar especially since 2010, when the country was named host country of the World Cup. We do investigative and research work which consists of going into the field. We have researchers who go there regularly and who talk to the workers, the authorities of Qatar, but also FIFA which, as an organizer, has a responsibility concerning the violations of rights in the country. It is a job that is essential, to collect information and evidence to then make recommendations to the various authorities.

To what extent has the media attention linked to the World Cup contributed to advancing the issue of human rights in Qatar?
LS: This is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on what has been denounced for years. There have been developments, but we are far from the mark at around 60 days before the World Cup. We still have workers caught in a cycle of exploitation, some who work 84 hours a week, who have no day off, some whose passports are confiscated or others who have not had a salary for months. We have made several advances, in particular with the abolition of the kafala system. The problem is the gap between these legislative developments and the implementation in the lives of workers, in their daily lives.

“It will be a challenge for us to maintain this pressure on the State of Qatar after the World Cup and to show that we are not letting down migrant workers. » Lola Schulman

In the documentary, you mention the increase from 1.1 million migrant workers in 2010 to 2.2 million today. How will this figure evolve once the World Cup is over?
LS: We have seen a sharp increase in the number of migrant workers in Qatar, particularly for the construction of various infrastructures, stadiums, hotels, the metro, etc. What we are seeing today is that some workers are being sent home because there is no more work. The question will indeed arise after the World Cup, from the moment when we no longer have this spotlight which also allows us to maintain pressure on the State of Qatar. It will also be a challenge for us to maintain this pressure and show that we are not letting down migrant workers.

One of the most chilling passages of the documentary concerns the question of the deaths of migrant workers on construction sites. Is there really no follow-up for families? The Qatari State does not justify the deaths on construction sites?
LS: The problem that we see is that there are always deaths which remain unexplained since on the death certificates, there is written “unknown cause” or “respiratory problem”, even though the person was in very good health. There is no identified responsibility on the part of the government of Qatar and no link that is made between the working conditions and the death of the person. Consequently, the family does not receive any compensation and for some, they even have to go into debt to repatriate the body of their loved one.
AC: What is striking in the testimonies is that we are talking about people who are in good health, but also relatively young. We are going to talk about heart attacks for people who are 30 or 40 years old.

“We wanted to highlight this glaring discrepancy between the image position of the FFF and the situation on site. » Arnaud Constant

Coming back to the World Cup, do you have discussions with the various football federations that will go to Qatar, and in particular the FFF?
LS: We have published a petition asking the Federation to speak out publicly. Despite our alerts and the appointment that we had obtained in April, the situation has not progressed. The FFF does not wish to speak publicly on the issue of human rights in Qatar, even though there is a real stake in it doing so. She has a responsibility as a member of FIFA, but also because she will be going to Qatar and therefore will use all the infrastructure.
AC : In the documentary, we wanted to highlight this glaring discrepancy between the image position of the FFF and the situation on site. You have these numerous testimonies of human rights violations, and in parallel the FFF which publishes this video on his YouTube account welcoming the facilities, without mentioning the plight of migrant workers or staff.

During the World Cup, how does Amnesty plan to intervene on the spot?
LS: We will continue our alert role. We know that from November 20 and the start of the tournament, it will become complicated to talk about human rights issues. Hence the urgency for us to act now to have a real commitment from FIFA and, at French level, from the FFF.

Interview by Tom Binet
For further : read the article “The Coffins of Shame” in issue 189 of Societycurrently on newsstands.

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