If you’re a foreign worker in Quatar, you must have your employer’s permission to leave the country. It’s been described as indentured servitude, but that’s only if things go well. In the case of any dispute, say a salary dispute, an employer can, and often does, withhold that permission, effectively trapping you as a slave.
Zahir Belounis, a French-Algerian football player was lured in with a contract, but his club dropped his salary and refused to give him permission to leave until he abandoned claims to his salary.
“I have lost everything. Now I want to come back to my country. Give me my freedom. Here you can stop someone leaving if they have done something, made a mistake [ie, committed a crime]. I have nothing against me. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
He was only released after the French President François Hollande and Tim Noonan , president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) intervened on his behalf
How many are enslaved by the Kafala system in GCC nations and lack the resources to appeal to international presidents?
His is certainly not the only story. ITUC estimates that 500K -1 million human beings will be needed to construct the 2022 World Cup stadium, and that 4000 human persons will die due to labor conditions, which are lower in Qatar than other nations in the area.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC describes it thus:
“Migrant workers are trapped in Qatar under the strict kafala system. To be injured and trapped in Qatar is even worse.
“Injured workers face being stuck there without being able to work, without pay, in a country where your employer owns you, sharing a room with ten grown men recuperating from injuries.
“We are appealing to the Qatari Government to grant a kafala amnesty to injured workers giving them the choice to change employers, or to leave the country with their end of service benefit.
Fifa’s reputation is on the line, and should be. But so is the reputation of the nation of Qatar, and they just don’t seem concerned.
#kafala entrap the the “usual” victims poor, the immigrant, the uneducated. Much is written about trafficking in female (but not male prostitution, which is far more commonplace than most people think), but it goes beyond that – it includes construction workers, domestic workers, and others–must human trafficking have to be sexual to be a bad thing? This is modern day slavery of millions of men and boys as well as women.
What can you do? we’re trying to get #kafala and #nomorekafala trending on Twitter. Get the issue attention, link the term #kafala to slavery and human trafficking, and support organizations that fight human trafficking in every capacity, and not just of one type.