Arron Mc Cardle on the screening of The Workers Cup hosted by the United Nations and Time For Equality under the aegis of Ciné-ONU in Luxembourg.
“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty.
The social issues that dominate the discussion around the 2022 World Cup are those of migrant workers. Accordingly, organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as trade unions, such as the International Trade Union Confederation heavily criticize the exploitation of foreign work forces in Qatar and blame the government of Qatar, FIFA, involved corporate businesses and recruitment agencies for failing to tackle the issue. Labour migrants in general, and in Qatar in particular, often find themselves in very vulnerable conditions. The fact that the social welfare system and jurisdiction operates under national sovereignty and includes and excludes people based on their citizenship exacerbates the situation for migrant workers. While outside of their country of origin, people who do not possess the exclusive membership of the country of destination enjoy less rights and face more often precarious conditions than citizens. Keeping this in mind, migrants pose new challenges to the concept of nation state. When the country of origin as well as the country of destination does not adequately protect migrant workers, which framework then protects these workers from being exploited? Who defends the rights of migrant workers and according to which institutional mandate?
Civil society organisations and major media outlets have been on Qatar’s case for years. Since it was announced in late 2010 that the small Arab state will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the projects for the event’s lavish infrastructure were launched, several investigations into the working conditions of migrants toiling away at the construction sites revealed a string of serious human rights violations.
Considering the varied International Human Rights issues occurring in Qatar at present, we at Time for Equality thought it necessary to raise awareness and advocate for the improvement of migrant worker’s rights. In collaboration with Ciné-ONU Time for Equality hosted a screening at the cinema Utopia Luxembourg on the 26th March 2018 of a documentary entitled The Workers Cup, directed by Adam Sobel, and co-produced by Rosie Garthwaite. The cinematic piece follows the lives of several office and construction workers who compete in a football tournament on behalf of their company. The annual cup was established to provide a recreational outlet for Qatar’s hundreds of thousands of migrant workers most of whom live away from their families. According to the film’s website, the men they profile “play heroes on the football pitch but are the lowest members of society off of it.” Without casting blame or stirring up resentments, (the director) simply gives the audience characters to connect with. What happens next is up to the viewer.
Post Screening Panel Discussion
A panel discussion followed the screening with Karen Wauters (vice president of Time for Equality), Rosie Garthwaite (producer) and Eryn Zander (founder and president of Sportunity asbl). The audience’s varied demographic helped to facilitate an emotive and intelligent discussion that touched on many different topics including personal insights and experiences and the importance of human rights advocacy in the context of migrant worker’s rights. Rosie Garthwaite discussed the current state affairs in Qatar and shared her personal thoughts on the media landscape in UAE and hopes of reform in migrant workers laws. Eryn Zander from Sportunity shared information about an initiative which helps the refugee community in Luxembourg integrate through sports. The objective of Sportunity is to ensure that those in the Luxembourg refugee community can identify with others and themselves without being labelled generically as a refugee or asylum seeker.
Overall the event was both informative and successful. Allowing for likeminded people from many different cultural backgrounds living in Luxembourg to take the opportunity to learn about the challenges confronting the global human rights community.
Arron Mc Ardle
I am a legal researcher and writer with a passion for the delineation and dissemination of global human rights issues.
In 2016 Amnesty International issued a report The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on a Qatar 2022 Site, which highlighted how migrant workers were exploited at the Khalifa Stadium. An independent report by Impactt Limited in 2017 confirms there have been changes but there is still much to do. In October 2017, Qatar committed, under an agreement with ILO, to reforming some aspects of its migrant labour regime.
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