The United Nations (UN) has raised a number of “serious concerns of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals in Qatar” in a report to be presented later this week to the Human Rights Council.
Compiled by the UN’s special rapporteur for racism, Tendayi Achiume, at the invitation of the Qatari government, the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, acknowledged the World Cup host nation’s “impressive reform” on human rights and highlighted a number of areas of “serious concern” over the treatment of migrant workers who make up 1.9 million of the 2.8 million population.
“A serious concern for Qatar is structural forms of racial discrimination against nonnationals”, said the report arguing that a combination of “complex” factors within the Gulf Kingdom had conditioned human rights “significantly” on the basis of national origin and nationality. “For many in Qatar, national origin and nationality determines the extent of their enjoyment of their human rights,” explained the report.
The Government must take urgent steps to dismantle what is in effect a quasi-caste system based on national origin
said the report, urging the Gulf monarchy to make further progress in dismantling “structural racism” within the country.
Of the many racist practices within the kingdom highlighted by Achiume, the root cause of such discrimination is the stereotypes of foreigners that is typical within the Gulf region in general. The report found that “racial and ethnic stereotypes operate in both the public and private spheres, according to which, for example, sub-Saharan African men are presumed to be unsanitary, sub-Saharan African women are presumed to be sexually available, and certain South Asian nationalities are presumed unintelligent.”
Such negative stereotypes of other national groups do not exist. “North Americans, Europeans and Australians are presumed superior, and whites in general are presumed to be inherently competent in various contexts, such as hiring and promotion decisions,” said the report.
Despite a pledge to amend the notorious kafala system the report found examples of “immense power imbalances” between employers and migrant workers rooted in the sponsorship system which has historically structured labour relations and conditions of residency for low-income workers in Qatar, and Gulf states generally.
With the report’s publication a month after FIFA declaring a renewed effort to fight racism saying “we all must say no to racism and any form of discrimination”, and with Qatar due to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there is likely to be further pressure on football’s governing body to respond to the UN’s findings.
In a statement to the Guardian, FIFA failed to acknowledge the racial discrimination described by the special rapporteur and said the report recognised, “the significant improvements that Qatar has made over the past years, and commends Qatar for its openness in engaging with the UN-mandated experts”.