On outskirts of Doha, laborers watch World Cup they built, and others toil and dream.
As Qatar hosts the 2022 World Cup, thousands of expatriates from around the world are arriving on the country’s shores to work in the construction industry. What has remained hidden to most is how these workers are forced to live. Their lives are regulated by laws that forbid workers to leave their camp to get food, water and medical attention.
A Doha resident, Sami al-Saleh, has been working with migrant construction workers for years. When he heard that a group of workers on his street were demanding to leave their camp, he decided he would do something about it.
“I met with them and convinced them that their life is in danger,” he told The Guardian. “They want to fight for their rights.”
He also convinced them that they would be safer in a camp than in their normal lives. He did this by building a camp in a field, with walls three times the size of a football field, for three months while they finished the World Cup.
Salehi said they built it with donations collected from sponsors like Nike, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Ikea, and Puma. He was able to find the material for the walls, and also work with an organization to do the plumbing and electrical installations. It cost about $1.4 million to build this camp, which is about the same price it costs to put up a conventional house. In total, the camp will require $30 million in materials and labor to complete, and will cost about $700,000 a year to maintain.
By building this camp for the workers, he hopes to show how much he values the workers and the importance they place on their rights. In short, he hopes to send a message to the government officials and organizers of the world’s largest sporting event that construction in Qatar is not just a matter of building homes and buildings, but a matter of human rights.
“Many of these workers lived in the camp for years,” said Salehi. “They paid their rent here, their electricity bill here, their water bill here, and even saved money here. They were just about to have a big celebration because they got the World Cup here.”