Behind Qatar’s incredible $70 billion megacity project with curved skyscraper and man-made islands lies a dark secret.
By Henry Holloway
Qatar has spent at least $330 billion preparing the country to host the World Cup – and much of that has been spent on the city of Lusail.
Being the second largest city in the Gulf State with a population of around 200,000 people, Lusail has seen billions spent to turn it into a the “city of the future”, The Sun reports.
With a crescent moon skyscraper hotel, huge man-made islands, whole districts wired for climate control and a new 80,000-seater stadium, the city is a key part of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
The $70 billion project has seen the 36sq km patch of land converted into what the Qataris hope will be a paradise on the Gulf.
And the city will host its first World Cup game on Tuesday with a clash between Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
But behind all the glitzy buildings and hi-tech systems, there are fears the city – like many infrastructure projects in Qatar – harbours a dark secret.
Qatar denies migrant worker mistreatment
It is feared such rapid developments have been built on the suffering of thousands of migrant workers.
Qatar denies mistreatment of migrant workers and says it is proactively working to improve standards.
However human rights groups estimate more than 6500 workers have died in Qatar since the Middle Eastern nation won the rights to stage the World Cup in December 2010.
Qatar has a two million-strong migrant workforce, with many of them said to work for low pay in sweltering conditions.
And these workers may have been responsible for creating the metropolis which will host 10 games during the World Cup, including the final on December 18.
Once completed, it is hoped Lusail will have a theme park, a lagoon, two marinas, two golf courses and 22 hotels along with luxury shopping and commercial districts.
Lusail Iconic Stadium will host the final game of the World Cup. Picture: Foster + Partners
Sprawling around the West Bay Lagoon, the city is around 23km north of the capital Doha and is hoped to one day have infrastructure to support 450,000 people.
Incredible earthworks have seen four man-made islands spring up as well as the city, which was essentially built from scratch.
And the city hosted Qatar’s first Formula 1 race last year when Lewis Hamilton won the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix.
But one of the most recognisable parts of the city is the crescent moon hotel complex, the Katara Towers.
It is 211m tall with 40 floors – housing two luxury hotels along with apartments, offices and shops.
Reports of paltry wages and dangerous conditions
And while the city is an incredible complex, it is feared to be built of the backs of poorly paid migrant workers.
Construction workers helping to build stadiums are reported to have been paid less than $1.80 an hour.
And some are said to have died as they worked in the blazing heat of Qatar.
Human Rights Watch compiled a report which details how migrant workers are allegedly exploited using the “kafala system”.
Workers, mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines, have essentially found themselves in a form of “forced labour”.
The kafala system ties workers’ visas to their employer who is their sponsor, and they are responsible for the workers’ legal status.
Sometimes, migrants can be forced to pay up to $4000 just to secure a job.
And this is something that can lead to them emptying their savings or selling what little assets they have, only to them find themselves trapped in low-paying jobs.
Kafala rules mean the workers can’t leave their employment – with many being reported to have “absconded” by their bosses, which is a criminal offence in Qatar.
Human Rights Watch said the kafala system is “at the heart” of all abuses of migrant workers working ahead of the World Cup.
“[Our] research has shown that abusive legislation and policies, the time pressure, and attempts to contain the exorbitant costs, have resulted in abuses against migrant workers, including work in life-threatening conditions, low wages or illegal recruitment fees,” the group said in a submission this week to the European parliament.
“As FIFA prepares to rake in billions in revenue from sponsors and broadcasters, many migrant worker families still mourn the death of their loved ones and struggle to feed their children or pay off loans their loved ones took out to pay illegal World Cup recruitment fees.”
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance