2022 World Cup – The Blood and Bones of Migrant Workers.

The right to hold the Soccer World Cup was awarded to Qatar by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) in 2010.

This desert country possessed little football infrastructure, so a $200 billion stadium construction programme commenced. Immediately reports from the country indicated that hundreds of migrant workers were dying in construction-related incidents. 

The Jules Rimet Trophy (Wikimedia).

David Joyce of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) spoke about the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014.

The 2022 World Cup competition is about to begin in Qatar so let’s look at what has happened to the migrant workers since? 

The Guardian newspaper in February 2021 stated that some 6500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it had been awarded the World Cup in 2010. No figures for death were available for the workers from the Philippines and Kenya. The figures were supplied to the Guardian by the country’s embassies in Qatar. It remains unclear how many of these deaths were attributable directly to the World Cup infrastructural work as the Qatari authorities did not make the information available. 

The Qatari government did not keep meaningful statistics but has admitted to 37 deaths of labourers between 2014 and 2020, of which 3 were “work-related”.

The United Nations Agency, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which signed an agreement with Qatar in 2017 to improve work conditions, stated in a 2021 report that “it is still not possible to present a categorical figure for the number of fatal occupational injuries in the country.” The ILO admitted that in 2021, 50 workers died, 500 were severely injured, and 37,500 suffered mild to moderate injuries. The Qatari government says workers have much-improved working conditions, and the kafala system, which binds workers to employers, has been abolished. Evidence from workers indicates otherwise.

Amnesty International stated bluntly that Qatar has failed to adequately investigate and certify thousands of migrant deaths, and to this day, those deaths remain unacknowledged by the Qatari state authorities. One-half of migrant workers’ deaths are attributed to “unknown causes”, “natural causes”, and “cardiovascular diseases”. While toiling for long hours in scorching summer heat conditions and living in poor conditions, many workers paid the ultimate price for their labour. Remember that the summer months in Qatar were deemed too hot for FIFA, the players and the fans; the World Cup was moved to November/December 2022 from its traditional June/July dates!)

In August 2022, Amnesty said that more than 15000 foreigners of all ages and occupations had died in Qatar between 2010 and 2019. Estimates put the total number of migrant workers, who have virtually no rights in Qatar, at between 1.5 million and 2 million, of which some 400,000 work on various construction projects.

Recently French journalists Sebastian Castelier and Quentin Muller, in their book “Les Esclaves de l’Homme Petrole” (“The Oil Man’s Slaves”), exposed the brutal working conditions of many migrants in Qatar supported by some 60 personal testimonies of the workers.

The failure of the Qatari government to produce clear and reliable statistics for the causes of the deaths is not acceptable, given its undoubted sophistication in other spheres. It represents a deliberate attempt to cover up the true position. It is fairly evident that Qatar’s World Cup became a graveyard for many migrant workers even as their bodies were flown back to their native countries. Issues such as the Qatari human rights record and its attitude to same-sex relations have also drawn much criticism. 

“Mother Jones” magazine, in its November/December 2022 edition, contains a comprehensive and penetrating article by Tim Murphy, “Power Ball….How oligarchs, private equity, and petrostates took over soccer”, which detailed the sports-washing taking place in soccer, with particular emphasis on the scandals of the World Cup. The umbilical cord of enormous wealth passing between these entities and professional sports has now rotted the beautiful games.

Mother Jones Magazine November/December 2022 Edition.

The enormous level of arms purchases by Qatar from some countries whose FIFA executive members supported the original bid from the Emirate for the World Cup ($16 billion to France for fighter jets) and the corruption of this FIFA 22-man executive committee so well documented in FIFA Uncovered on Netflix is testament to scale of “one of the sleaziest, rottenest examples of corruption in the history of sport” (quoted from Malachy Clerkin in “The Irish Times” of 12th November 2022).

The sight of coffins arriving on airport trolleys in Kathmandu Airport and the funeral byres along the rivers in Nepal provide a jolting realisation of the human cost of the modern mass exploitation of migrant workers.

Not even the sponsored sports-washing and motorcycle videos of former soccer stars and influencers for Qatar can hide the reality that millions of sports followers worldwide will turn off or largely ignore this World Cup show in 2022. Thousands of migrant workers have died, and tens of thousands of these workers have been injured during the decade-long construction works to bring this World Cup to your televisions for the next few weeks. 

Almost 100 years ago, Mother Jones wrote in her autobiography about the working conditions of the extractive fossil fuel industry of coal mining.

” I have been in West Virginia more or less for the past twenty-three years, taking part in the interminable conflicts that arose between the industrial slaves and their masters. The conflicts were always bitter. Mining is cruel work. Men are down in utter darkness hours on end. They have no life in the sun. They come up from the silence of the earth utterly wearied. Sleep and work, work and sleep. No time or strength for education, no money for books. No leisure for thought.”  (The Autobiography of Mother Jones, C. H.Kerr 1925)

In a bitter and ironic twist of fate, at the Qatar World Cup, today’s workers are forced to endure long hours slaving under the harsh effects of the powerful sun to build football temples for their masters. The untold riches derived from to-day’s extractive polluting fossil fuel industry, an industry which may doom the entire planet are being wasted by the modern-day oil barons on sports washing vanity projects.     

Pray for these migrant workers and fight like hell for the survivors of this sports scandal.

Honouring Their Fighting Spirit.

The decision by Cork City councillors on 15th March 2022 to rezone the Bessborough area marked Children’s Burial Ground to a landscape preservation zone, was as a result of the sustained campaign fought by members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) over many years. This zoning should help to enhance the protection afforded the burial grounds on the site of the former Bessborough Mother and Child Institution. The location of the remains of up to 859 babies who died is still uncertain. 

Following the successful appeal by the CSSA in 2021 to the An Bord Pleanala (the Irish Planning Board), which led to the refusal of planning permission for the construction of blocks of apartments on the site, this Cork City Council decision represented further vindication for the survivors of Bessborough Mother and Child institution in their efforts to protect this burial site. 

Members of the CSSA, who were present in the Council Chamber received a huge round of applause from Cork City councillors at the meeting.

Front Row L to R: Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman with the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2021, Maureen Considine.  Back Row: Maureen Sullivan, Mary Dunlevy, Phil Kinsella and Sheila O’Byrne of the CSSA outside Cork City Hall.

The CSSA was nominated to receive the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award for their outstanding efforts to protect the site. 

Earlier in the evening at City Hall the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award was presented personally to CSSA’s Ann O’Gorman by Gerard O’Mahony on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. 

Ann’s daughter Evelyn, born almost 50 years ago in Bessborough, was buried in an unmarked grave there.

Ann O’Gorman with the Spirit of Mother Jones Award

Ann was described by Maureen Considine of the CSSA as ” an amazing campaigner and an inspirational hero to all of us”. 

She has demanded for many decades that this site should be “marked, protected and blessed”.

This Cork City Council decision will  contribute to the preservation of the burial site and the realisation of Ann O’Gorman’s dream.

And the World Turns Away!


Peadar King is a journalist and documentary film maker and is well known as the producer of the documentary series for RTE “What in the World”. His latest book published recently by Liffey Press, War, Suffering and the Struggle for Human Rights is a powerful indictment of war and chronicles human rights abuses in times of conflict. Peadar interviews people from war zones whose descriptions of the impact of war and the horrible devastation which follows are heart breaking.


He states that “all wars are based on lies” and uses the Irish phrase “Chroi Bhriste” to describe the unspeakable horror endured by those who suffer.


The very human accounts in this book of the results of war are taken from interviews with the ordinary people and they paint in graphic detail the indiscriminate destruction of bombs on people and their communities.


Have we become inured to war? We can now watch versions of wars on our TVs and computers, but to many it’s more virtual clickbait with neither the impacts, the questions, context nor explanation sought nor provided.

Yet, Europe, the UK, the USA, Russia and China supply 75% of all weapons used in these wars which are fought over power, resources and oil and in the near future…. fresh water supplies!


“And The World Turns Away” features a discussion with Peadar King and will be shown during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Human Rights in a Divided World.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that Fergal Keane has agreed to speak to the topic “Human Rights in a Divided World”.

Fergal Keane
Fergal Keane (Photo: Limerick Leader)

He will appear on Sunday evening 31st July at the Maldron Hotel at 7.30pm.

Born in London, his mother Maura Hassett wasfrom Cork city and father Eamonn Keane from Listowel, both actors, who had met in Cork and were married in Ballyphehane church. The family also lived in Dublin for some before he moved to Cork to live with May Hassett, his grandmother.  Fergal Keane spent much of his youth in Cork, attending St Joseph’s National School on the Mardyke and then the Presentation College nearby where he came under the influence of Brother Jerome Kelly, “a man who would change my life”. In 1972, Brother Kelly, founded SHARE – Schoolboys Harness Aid for Relief of the Elderly which was set up to assist the elderly in Cork to obtain a home.

He says of Cork “More than any other place I have lived, it is Cork I regard as my home.”

He became a reporter with the Limerick Leader and later went to Dublin where he worked in The Irish Press. Moving to RTE he gained experience as a foreign correspondent especially in Africa, before joining the BBC.

In his memoir All of these People published in 2005, Fergal describes, while reporting on the Eritrean war, seeing a badly wounded boy Ande Mikail lying in a tent covered in a foil blanket after being wounded from an Ethiopian MiG fighter…

“That moment on the Eritrean hillside was a point of departure for me. I had seen news photographs of war victims and I’d watched documentaries. But they didn’t smell the way that tent did, and the eyes of the dying on the screenhad never caught me the way Ande Mikail’s had. Having looked into the eyes of this child of war I could not look away again.”

Fergal Keane

He is one of the BBC’s most distinguished foreign correspondents and is a multi-award winning journalist and author. He has reported and borne witness from many of the world’s trouble spots such South Africa, Rwanda, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland. He describes the conflicts around him from the perspectives of the ordinary people and children who are suffering and dying in circumstances over which they have no control or say.  The recipient of a BAFTA, he has won the George Orwell prize for literature. He was named Amnesty International’s Human Rights reporter of the Year in 1993.

Fergal has made several documentaries such as Forgotten Britain for the BBC and The Story of Ireland (RTE and BBC Northern Ireland)

He is the author of many books including The Bondage of Fear, Road of Bones,and Season of Blood Rwandan Journey, Letter to Daniel and All of These People…a memoir.

Fergal loves to potter by the sea shore at Ardmore in West Waterford.

Water – a Human Right

Dr. Margaret O'Keeffe
Dr. Margaret O’Keeffe

Under the subtitle “Renewing Our Faith in (Strong) Democracy – Lessons from the Water Protests!” Dr. Margaret O’Keeffe will speak on this very topical issue at the Maldron Hotel, on Friday, 31st July at 2pm.

Dr. O’Keeffe, who lectures in Community Development at the Department of Social Studies, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), says the lecture has its genesis in her thoughts, observations and peaceful activism over the last two years or so in relation to some of the critical issues regarding water privatisation in Ireland.

Drawing on Benjamin Barber’s conceptualisation of Strong Democracy (1998), I wish to link the discussion to wider debates in relation to various interrelated democratic struggles at local, national and global levels, including but not limited to issues of growing global inequality, privatisation, climate change and the proposed Trans-Atlantic TTIP trade deal”, states Margaret.

“I argue that the water protest struggle is linked to wider emancipatory struggles which use the democratic process to challenge the hegemony of corporate power in an increasingly unequal global economy.  I suggest that the water protest movement is a microcosm of wider democratic struggles across Europe and the world”.

“Failure to recognise these interlinkages and their adverse implications for a fairer society for all means that we inadvertently fail to see what is happening to our world, and the likely degraded and diminished world, in terms of hope and opportunity, that our children, grandchildren and generations yet to be born, will face now and into the future.”, she concluded.

Qatar – a World Cup graveyard?

Qatar rerun the vote

Among the many issues which Mother Jones championed was the protection of workers and ensuring that miners and factory workers worked in safe and decent working conditions. In spite of the passing of a century, tens of millions of workers are still denied basic human rights. None more so than the modern day slavery which is institutionalised in Qatar. This has been highlighted by the preparations for the World Cup in 2022. It is totally unacceptable that thousands should die to ensure we can enjoy the beautiful game in 2022.

 

David Joyce, the International Development Officer of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) will discuss the position at a lecture entitled “Qatar……a World Cup graveyard?” which will be held at the Firkin Crane in Shandon at 12 noon on Wednesday 30th July next, all welcome!

 

He makes the following points;

“Recent reports of corruption involved in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar have cast doubt over its suitability as a venue for the Football World Cup.  Long before these revelations however, trade unions and human rights activists have been calling for a rerun of the vote for other reasons.

 

What’s wrong with working in Qatar?

Qatar is a government which takes no responsibility for workers. There are 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar who have no rights.

  • 4000 workers could die before a ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup.
  • 1200 workers have died since the World Cup was awarded in 2010, on available data from just two countries.

Qatar is a slave state. 1.4 million migrant workers are trapped in a broken system. Fundamental rights and freedoms do not exist for workers in Qatar whether for poor migrant workers or highly paid professional expatriates. Foreign workers are enslaved – owned by employers who hold the power of recruitment, total control over wages and conditions of employment, the authority to issue ID cards and the ability to refuse a change of employment or exit visa to leave the country. This is known as the kafala system.

 

Unions around the world have been calling on FIFA to rerun the vote for the Qatar 2022 World Cup unless Qatar respects workers’ rights. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has finally conceded the decision to award Qatar the World Cup was a mistake. But Qatar’s promises on labour laws have been purely cosmetic and it is time for FIFA to stand up for human rights. FIFA must use this opportunity to be a catalyst for change and ensure that the World Cup only takes place in Qatar if workers’ rights are fully guaranteed.

 

The five conditions the International Trade Union Confederation will impose are:

  • End Kafala;
  • Allow freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • A minimum wage for all workers;
  • Introduce grievance procedures;
  • Work with responsible international recruitment agencies.”