Qatar a 'slave state' for World Cup workers, says unionist

Scores of migrant labourers facing 'slavery' conditions will likely die to build Qatar's stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, a prominent trade unionist warned Sunday.

"More labourers will die during construction than the footballers who will step on the pitch," said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

"Qatar is a 21st-century slave state," the 58-year-old told left-wing Avgi daily in an interview.

Burrow, a former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said construction workers faced temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) outdoors during the summer months.

Nepal alone had recorded 191 deaths among its nationals in 2010, most of them heart attacks, she said.

"They work at risk of heart attacks and dehydration...many die at night from heat strokes," Burrow said, adding that a "wall of silence" had followed pledges by Qatar authorities to improve work conditions.

Burrow noted that migrant labourers -- who form the bulk of Qatar's private workforce -- had no choice but to submit to such conditions as their passports are held by their employers upon entering the country.

And she called on construction firms bidding for 2022 World Cup contracts to take this into account.

"The way Qatar takes advantage of migrant workers is a disgrace to football," Burrow said.

"Pressure on Qatar will increase...Qatar can no longer buy the respect of the international community," she said.

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