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German vice chancellor demands more rights for World Cup laborers in Qatar

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has called for better working conditions at a building site of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The problems facing employees are among a host of issues plaguing the tournament.

During a visit to the construction site for a new district in the capital, Doha, on Tuesday, Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) acknowledged a number of "significant violations in the past."

"One of the main problems Qatar has to deal with is its system of 'sponsorship,' in which people employ

foreign migrant workers

at high profit and take their passports away," Gabriel said.

"It is a country ... that although it is very rich, it is still at the level of a developing country, and therefore has no experience with labor law," he added.

Improvements

Gabriel was keen to add, however, that a number of improvements had been made.

"The West should recognize that Qatar has improved a lot for migrant workers due to pressure from trade unions and the UN Labor Organization," the economics minister said. "I think we also need to remember that."

The country's Supreme Committee, which is responsible for organizing the 2022 World Cup, has recently agreed to bans on commission payments for job seekers and drops in average wages. Qatar also agreed to new laws in May last year which allow workers to leave the country and change employers when their contracts end.

Deportation

An engineer from the Qatar Primary Materials Company, who wished to remain anonymous, recently told DW that his working day had now been limited to eight hours.

"But they have also said that through overtime you can work up to 15 hours a day," the engineer told DW.

Last November, some 600 Nepalese workers were so angry with their working conditions that they went on strike, resulting in 100 of them being deported. Not even local journalists, who were following the story, know what happened to the remaining 500.

Ongoing issues

The choice of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup has been controversial since it received the vote to hold the tournament back in 2010.

Most recently, concerns have been raised about the safety of players and supporters in the region's high summer temperatures, with a

special FIFA task force

proposing last month to hold the footballing event in the winter months as opposed to the usual summer slot.

A report published in Britain's

Sunday Times last June

also revealed details suggesting that Qatari former top level football executive Mohamed Bin Hammam used his wealth and high-level contacts to buy support for his country's World Cup bid.

ksb/sb (dpa, AFP)

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