A long report by Le Monde in the industrial area of Doha
In industrial area of Doha thousand of immigrant workers live in unsanitary conditions. That’s what he writes ‘Le Monde’, in a long report, in which he talks about the daily life of these workers on construction sites in the capital of Qatar at the time of the World Cup. In fact, during the sporting event, he tells the French newspaper, fan-zones were inaugurated for these workers in the south-west of the capital. “Like foreign fans, who gather in Al-Bidda Park, migrant workers, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the country’s three million population, have the opportunity to watch matches in a cricket stadium that has been equipped for the occasion. Between one game and another, these spectators can also play football on the mini-fields or quench their thirst at the bar that has been set up”.
With its clamor and light effects, ‘Le Monde’ points out, the fan-zone “brings a bit of World Cup fever even to the usually seedy and neglected suburbs of Doha. A labyrinth of factories, workshops, warehouses and dormitories for the workers; parking for bulldozers, tankers and forklifts… the industrial area, populated exclusively by men, is the engine room of Qatar. The place that no one sees, but from which everyone benefits: invisible and essential”.
An industrial area “dirty with sand and dust when the rest of the city exudes maniacal cleanliness. Built horizontally in a country that prides itself on its skyscrapers, the industrial area is the negative of West Bay, the business district with ultra-modern towers; it’s the downside of the glittering view contained in World Cup promo videos,” the newspaper wrote. “It is one of the vital organs of Doha, but it is a diseased organ,” Mustafa Qadri, director of the NGO Equidem, which specializes in defending workers’ rights, explains to the newspaper.
In the long article ‘Le Monde’ he talks about Narayan and Dadhiram, two Nepalese in their forties. “Employees of a taxi company, they are paid the Qatari minimum wage, 1,000 rials (265 euros), plus 300 rials for overtime and another 300 rials for food. Or 1,600 rials a month for twelve hours of work per day”. At our age, Narayan explains, “that’s very little.” “With all the fans in town, business for the company is going to be good. We asked for a raise, but we haven’t received a reply. The money from the World Cup, apart from the tips, we won’t see the color of it.”
As with most of these workers, Narayan and Dadhiram send most of their wages to their families. For Dadhiram it is to pay for her daughter’s nursing studies, which she dreams of earning a living in Australia. “I understand. Qatar – he explains – has its positive sides, it’s a perfectly safe country. But people like us have no future there. Even after thirty years of working here, I won’t have Qatari nationality. where you stop working, you go home. While in Australia, it is possible to naturalize an immigrant.”
That area, says ‘Le Monde, was born in the 80s, with the beginning of the industrialization of Qatar. Since the late 1990s, with the start of natural gas exports, Doha has been modernizing at a frantic pace but the industrial area has not kept pace. “To accommodate the immigrant workforce, whose numbers are exploding, the government allows the development, on the fringes of factories and warehouses, of informal housing, similar to small slums. The industrial area becomes the dark side of the Qatari capital, the hold sickness of an ever more luxurious ocean liner”.
To respond to criticism from NGOs and after winning the organization of the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has started the construction of more presentable work camps. Among these is Labor City, inaugurated in 2015 and located in the extension of the industrial area: “made up of three-story buildings, with a standardized design, it can accommodate 70,000 people, the place looks like an immense complex of social housing. The workers sleep in fairly clean rooms for four people, with an area of about 20 square meters, where bunk beds are prohibited. The site hosts two police stations and the second largest mosque in the country. Nearby are some leisure facilities emerged, such as a cinema and a cricket stadium. Residents of Labor City are generally employees of reputation-conscious multinational companies.”
But despite the government’s efforts, notes ‘Le Monde’, “an entire part of the industrial area remains in a state of anarchic underdevelopment, of the ‘jungle’ type. The situation suits small subcontractors, which cannot afford to host its staff in better quality fields, while allowing the authorities to exempt themselves from any responsibility.”This informal status is a way of keeping workers in a state of vulnerability, which makes them easily exploitable”, denounces Mustafa Qadri.