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Qatar: A Conspiracy of Silence

Governments, corporations, FIFA and even the UN willingly take billions of dollars of Qatari money and the price appears to be a blind eye to 21st century slavery.

Qatar is the wealthiest nation on earth with $88,222 per head of population. It is not a democracy rather it is run as a family owned corporation. The Emir is the all powerfully head of the family and ultimately he makes the decisions.

Under the guise of 'culture,' women belong to their family or to their husbands.

With the cry of ' cohesion' migrant workers, building the edifices of the super-rich, are, with rare exception, excluded from Qatari society and enslaved in squalid labour camps.

One-point-three million desperate workers from some of the poorest nations -- Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sudan and more -- are lured to this wealthy nation with the promise of jobs and the possibility of supporting families at home. They are forced to pay for this opportunity to unscrupulous recruitment agents acting against international law.

They arrive to often find contracts torn up and with fees and charges they often make as little as $200 per month. Without families, they are squashed into tiny rooms with eight, ten, sometimes twelve other men. Forced to cook meager food provisions in extremely unhygienic conditions, they work long hours in extreme heat they risk their lives.

More than one worker a day will die and be shipped home unceremoniously with no communication and more often than not no compensation for their families.

For women being taken into households as domestic workers, it is a gamble. Many are subject to abuse including sexual abuse and rape. Fall pregnant to a rapist and you will be more often be jailed with your baby than he will be prosecuted.

All workers are 'owned' by their sponsors who will most often confiscate passports and regularly refuse to sign exit visas, trapping workers with no means of survival or escape to their own nations.

The legal system is ineffective and stacked against a poor worker with no access to transport, documentation or legal services. A 'hotline' in the labor ministry is an automated voice and turned off after 3:00 p.m.

Embassies can't extract their citizens. Even the French president couldn't extract French footballer footballers Zahir Belounis.

In the face of these atrocities, FIFA awarded the world cup to Qatar and companies are falling over themselves to gain contracts. Another 500,000 to 800,000 migrants will be required to allow Qatar its global sports moment.

More workers will die building the stadiums than players will play on the field but still the silence reigns.

And it's so easy to fix. It's just a matter of political will.

FIFA needs to make workers' rights a condition of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, and committing to joint inspections with international unions and a team of experts.

Qatar must reform the abusive 'kefala sponsorship' system, which ties a worker to their employer and denies them the freedom to leave the country or change employers. Pass national laws allowing freedom of association for migrant workers given them the right to form and join trade unions and collectively bargain. Overhaul the grievance procedures for labour complaints and work with international recruitment companies to clean up the mass recruitment of migrant workers.

But I fear they won't act without international pressure.

We can't rely on the UN when the Secretary General himself was in Qatar for the climate conference last year and said not one thing about women or workers' rights.

So the question is for governments: Is the price of silver worth more than human and labor rights?

Do the world's democratic governments have the courage to act?

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