BBC reporter Mark Lobel was invited to Qatar to report on brand new showcase accommodations for foreign workers laboring on construction projects for the 2022 World Cup.
However when Lobel and his crew ventured off on their own to cover some of the still-disgraceful living and working conditions for foreign workers, they were arrested and thrown into jail without charges for two days.
Fifa says it is now investigating what happened to us. It has issued the following statement: “Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to Fifa and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves.”
Uh-huh. Yeah. No doubt. This and similar incidents could result in serious consequences for Qatar, including possible loss of the World Cup.
Ha ha. Just kidding.
Without trade unions or a free media, bosses of large domestic and international companies have little incentive to radically improve conditions for well over a million labourers desperate for money.
Before we were detained, I met an 18-year-old mechanic, one of the 400,000 Nepalese workers there.
He said he wanted to support his older brothers because his father had died and the family was struggling financially.
He paid a recruitment agency in Nepal $600 to arrange his visa to work in Qatar and was told he would earn $300 a month.
When he arrived he was told his salary, as a labour camp cleaner for air conditioning mechanics, was in fact $165 a month. He said he has never been given a copy of the contract he signed. Worse still, he said he could not understand it as it was in English.
It’s a very common trick that foreign recruitment agents play before workers even get to Qatar, and very difficult for Qatar itself to police, although it says it is trying.
This young man now finds himself at the mercy of Qatar’s restrictive kafala system, which prevents workers from changing jobs for five years. Being tied to an employer in that way can leave migrant workers open to exploitation.
However, with so much money needed for rebuilding decimated parts of Nepal, there will be no shortage of future volunteers.