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‘We have fallen into a trap’: Qatar’s World Cup dream is a nightmare for hotel staff | Workers’ rights

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When Fifa executives step on to the asphalt in Doha next November for the start of the 2022 World Cup finals, their next stop is likely to be the check-in at one of Qatar’s glittering array of opulent hotels, built to provide the most luxurious possible backdrop to the biggest sporting event on earth.

Now, with a year to go before the first match, fans who want to emulate the lifestyle of the sporting elite can head to Fifa’s hospitality website to plan their stay in the host nation. There they can scroll through a catalogue of exclusive, Fifa-endorsed accommodation, from boutique hotels to five-star resorts.

Yet behind the scenes of some of those hotels, while guests lounge around the pool or sip cocktails at the bar, migrant hotel workers claim they are struggling to survive on wages of £1 an hour.

The Guardian stayed at or visited seven of the hotels listed on Fifa’s hospitality website and in interviews and conversations with more than 40 workers – employed directly and through sub-contractorsuncovered a number of allegations of serious labour rights violations and low wages. The hotels have not been named to protect the identity of the workers who spoke to the Guardian.

Many workers alleged they worked extremely long hours, with some saying they had not had a day off for months. While they spent their days surrounded by the most luxurious of settings, some workers said they were housed in overcrowded rooms in stifling labour camps. A few workers claimed their passports had been confiscated. Many said their employer would not let them change jobs.

While rooms in the hotels listed on Fifa’s hospitality site are charged at up to £820 a night when bought as part of a package, almost every worker the Guardian spoke to employed in housekeeping, security, valet service, cleaning or gardening said they earned less than £1.25 an hour. Many were working for less than £1 an hour.

Workers made multiple allegations of breaches of Qatar’s labour law, which suggest shortcomings in Qatar’s labour reforms. These promised an end to abusive working conditions and the kafala sponsorship system that meant workers could not change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s consent.

The workers’ allegations also imply that Fifa has failed to effectively carry out basic checks on the hotels investigated by the Guardian that it had signed up to its catalogue, in breach of its own human rights policy, which requires it to prevent labour abuses linked to its operations.

While most workers the Guardian spoke to received salaries in line with the new minimum wage, which came into force in March 2021, that wage still equates to only £1 an hour plus a small allowance for food and board.

The Guardian has also seen payslips from one worker employed directly by a hotel in Fifa’s catalogue, which show that when the minimum wage was introduced his basic wage of 750 rials (£150) rose to 1,000 rials (£200) a month, but allowances for food or transport, for example, were cut by the same amount, meaning his salary stayed the same.

“Sometimes I ask myself why I came here,” he said. “The World Cup is a big thing and everyone enjoys it, but the way they treat us … we are all tired of it.”

As darkness fell on one of the properties in Fifa’s brochure, guests retired indoors, leaving David*, a migrant worker from Africa, labouring near the swimming pool.

A night in a standard room in the hotel costs more than David earns in a month. He is desperate to change jobs but despite recent government legislation allowing this, he sayssaid he is trapped. “My friends have tried to change jobs but our company refuses to let them go,” he said. “We have to accept it. Our boss does whatever he wants.”

The hotel boasts sumptuous suites and a marble-lined lobby, but his own lodgings are starkly different: a small room shared with five others in a run-down compound on the edge of Doha.

Ranjit, a security guard, stood on duty nearby, as he had done for the previous 11 hours. Ranjit’s salary works out at about 80p an hour. Yet for five months he kept nothing; everything went towards paying off the illegal £1,300 fee he was forced to hand a recruitment agent back home to secure the job. “It’s a scam,” he said. “Here they suck your blood.”

Some workers across the seven hotels said they were happy with their jobs and the staff accommodation provided by their hotels. Yet the majority said they felt trapped between the demands of their employers and the need to earn money for their families back in their own countries.

At one hotel, a worker alleged that the management would only give bonuses to staff who handed over their passports. It is illegal for employers to keep workers’ passports in Qatar.

“We have fallen into a trap and can’t get out,” said another worker at the hotel.

With 1.2 million fans expected during the World Cup, the hospitality sector can look forward to a lucrative tournament.

A few hotels demonstrated good practice by recruiting their staff directly through online adverts, rather than through labour agents who often extract extortionate and illegal fees from recruits, but even in these properties the Guardian spoke to staff who were paid very low wages.

A glittering array of new buildings have been built to accommodate the World Cup tournament.
A glittering array of new buildings have been built to accommodate the World Cup tournament. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

The worst allegations of abuse were by workers employed through sub-contractors, in particular hotel security guards and gardeners.

At another hotel on Fifa’s website a Kenyan security guard was about to begin his 12-hour shift, which he said stretched beyond 15 hours when he added travel time to and from his labour camp.

If he works all month without a break he earns 2,000 rials (£400); far less than he was promised when he signed up for the job in Kenya. If he took a day off, his employer would cut his wages by 50 rials (£10). Not that he often had that option. “During the summer we had to work for three months without a day off,” he said.

His passport has been confiscated by his company. “Maybe they think if you have your passport you can run away to another company,” he said. “We have no other option, so we take what is on the table.”

The Guardian’s findings have shone a spotlight directly on world football’s governing body, which has been criticised by Amnesty International for taking a “hands-off” approach to workers’ rights in the host nation. A spokesperson for Fifa said it “takes any claim concerning the rights of workers contributing to the hosting of Fifa events very seriously”.

The spokesperson said a dedicated team was implementing an audit and compliance system for companies involved in the delivery of the World Cup, including hotels, to ensure workers’ rights were respected. “While there is a need for continued improvement, we have already seen important progress by many hotels in Qatar in recent months,” the spokesperson added.

Isobel Archer, a specialist in labour rights in the Gulf at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), a charity headquartered in London, said hotels must recognise their responsibilities to all workers, including those employed through sub-contractors.

“If hotel brands put even half the effort into scrutinising their suppliers’ labour practices as they do the height of their reception desks or the density of guest room pillows, we’d see transformational change for hotel workers,” she said.

A report by the BHRRC this year also found evidence of widespread exploitation of hotel workers in Qatar which, it said, should be a “red flag” for football teams, fans and corporate sponsors.

A Qatari official said the government “takes any violation of its labour laws very seriously, including those in the hospitality sector”. The official said Qatar had a zero-tolerance approach towards violating companies, issuing harsh penalties that included fines and prison sentences.

“Awareness-raising initiatives have been launched to provide workers with information on how to raise complaints against their employer, and new mechanisms have been introduced to facilitate better access to justice,” the official added.

*Names have been changed or omitted to protect workers’ identities.

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Ukraine’s Finance Minister Reports Problems Finding Cash to Pay Troops Despite West’s Aid Bonanza

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The US and its allies have approved over $76 billion in military and fiscal aid to Kiev, equivalent to 40% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2021. However, much of this assistance doesn’t seem to be reaching its intended destinations, with CBS issuing (and then deleting) a story last week showing that as little as 30% of the military aid was reaching the front.

Ukraine is having trouble scrapping together the money required to pay soldiers’ salaries and has resorted to money printing thanks to a growing gap between military spending and declining tax revenues, combined with a slowing flow of Western aid, Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko has indicated.

“Every day and night it’s a constant headache,” Marchenko told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.

The minister explained that the government is now spending more than 60 percent of the budget on military-related expenditure, and has received assurances from Western countries of new loans and grants to cover non-military spending.

“The support we get now gives us the opportunity to win this war and to do it sooner rather than later. Without this money, the war will last longer and it will damage economies more,” Marchenko said.

The minister indicated that the government is disregarding concerns from the National Bank about skyrocketing inflation, saying “it is better to risk high inflation than not to pay soldiers’ salaries.” He added that he expects the conflict to turn into a “marathon” lasting for the remaining of 2022 and 2023. “This is a war of attrition. You have to think in these terms,” Marchenko said.

Ukraine has received a total of more than $50 billion in military and non-military aid authorizations from the US alone, including everything from weapons and new defense contracts for the military-industrial complex to replenish old inventories, to fiscal support and loans to help the Ukrainian state stay afloat, pay its creditors on time and avoid paralysis, to humanitarian assistance.
A worker paints a Saint Javelin, a Virgin Mary holding an American-made anti-tank missile, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.08.2022

CBS Deletes Documentary Revealing That Just ‘30%’ of West’s ‘Aid’ to Ukraine Reached Frontlines
US assistance has been matched by nearly $16 billion in aid from the European Union, plus $6.22 billion, $3.34 billion, $2.85 billion, $2.61 billion and $2.11 billion from Britain, Germany, Poland, Canada and France, respectively, for a grand total of over $76 billion.
On Friday, Ukrainian presidential chief economic advisor Oleg Ustenko urged the International Monetary Fund to shell out $5 billion as part of a larger $15-20 billion aid package over the eighteen months to two years to encourage others, including the US, the EU and other countries to go ahead with additional support. Last month, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal told attendees of a Switzerland-based conference dedicated to Ukraine’s economic recovery that the country would need some $750 billion in assistance.
Corruption concerns and questions about the final destination of the tens of billions of dollars doled out to Ukraine aid periodically emerge in mainstream media reporting on the conflict. Last month, Ukrainian-born Republican Congresswoman Victoria Spartz accused Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak of sabotaging the country’s defenses, and of appointing officials engaged in corruption to fight graft. Ukrainian officials dismissed her concerns as “Russian propaganda.”
Fitch Ratings - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.08.2022

Fitch Ratings, S&P Global Ratings Consider Ukraine’s Debt Restructuring as Default
Last week, CBS News posted and then deleted a bombshell documentary which uncovered that as little as 30 percent of the military assistance Western countries had sent to Kiev in the first months of the conflict had actually reached the frontlines. The documentary was quickly taken down to be “updated” to account for new information from the Pentagon and other sources.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the retraction was not enough and called for an “internal investigation” at CBS to determine “who enabled” the documentary’s release and why.



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Brazilian woman and fake seer con elderly mother out of $142 million | International

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A woman was arrested on August 10 by Rio de Janeiro police who charged her with conning her mother out of millions. In a strange story of greed abetted by fake psychics, Sabine Boghici and her accomplices stole more than $142 million in money, jewelry and artwork from Boghici’s mother over a two-year period.

Geneviève Boghici, the widow of a major art collector and dealer named Jean Boghici, was walking out of a bank in January 2020 near the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) when she was approached by a supposed psychic prophesying her daughter’s imminent death unless she underwent “spiritual therapy.” They walked together to Boghici’s apartment, where the psychic threw some shells in a mystical ritual that confirmed the tragic prophesy. The 82-year-old victim knew that her daughter suffered from psychological problems, and her affinity for the supernatural swayed her to transfer $980,000 to the swindlers.

Soon after the two-year con began, the elderly woman became suspicious and halted the money transfers when her daughter started to isolate her from friends. Sabine would not allow her mother to use the phone and dismissed all the domestic workers, justifying them as Covid-19 precautions. Yet Sabine and her cronies entered freely to loot her mother’s home of its valuables. Several psychics took items from the home, saying they were “cursed” and needed to be “prayed over.” The increasingly suspicious Geneviève tried to resist, but Sabine began threatening her life. According to the police, she wouldn’t allow her mother to eat and put a knife to her throat.

Police recover 'Sol Poente' by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.
Police recover ‘Sol Poente’ by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.Policia Civil de Rio de Janeiro (EFE)

The victim told the police that her daughter had some sort of relationship with one of the supposed psychics, Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, who practiced her trade in Rio de Janeiro as “Mãe Valéria de Oxossi” (Mother Valeria), and was a known con artist. Starting in September 2020, under constant threat from her daughter and accomplices, the elderly woman made another 38 bank transfers to the thieves.

Sabine and her cohorts stole 16 paintings and sculptures, and sold them all to art galleries or private buyers. Two of these works – Elevador Social (Social Elevator) by Rubens Gerchman, and Maquete para o menú espelho (A model for my mirror) by Antonio Dias – were bought by Eduardo Costantini, owner of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina), for his private collection. The São Paulo (Brazil) gallery owner who brokered the deal said he was not suspicious because he had known the family for a long time and the seller was the daughter of the deceased art collector. Constantini released a statement saying that he bought the paintings in good faith and was in direct contact with Genevieve Boghici.

In 2012, a fire in the Boghici’s Copacabana apartment destroyed part of their valuable collection, including Di Cavalcanti’s Samba and Alberto Guignard’s A Floresta (The Forest). Sol Poniente (Setting Sun), painted by Tarsila do Amaral in 1929, is one of the most valuable works in the Boghici collection ($49 million). It survived the 2012 fire but not the rampant greed of their daughter. The stolen painting was found under a bed by police, who arrested Sabine and three other people, including the fake seer. In a final twist to the whole bizarre story, the scamming psychic was apprehended trying to escape through a window.

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India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development

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Hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV in India are struggling to access treatment because of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to campaigners.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs.

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

According to Gangte, who has been protesting with about 30 others outside India’s National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in Delhi for 22 days, at least 12 other states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, are facing ARV shortages. He said several state governments have asked patients to change their longstanding drug regimes.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic had already broken our backs. Now this shortage is pushing us further into penury,” Gangte said.

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

According to government figures, 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

The government has refuted Gangte’s claims of a shortage. The Indian health ministry said it had “reviewed the entire situation and held a series of meetings with the protesters. ARV drugs are being provided for [a] duration of less than one month, but at no point in time has there been any shortage of drugs for any of the PLHIV [patients living with HIV]. There is adequate stock nationally for 95% PLHIV.”

Naco did not wish to comment. However, in a letter seen by the Guardian that was dated 30 May, Naco asked all state Aids prevention and control societies, which oversee HIV testing and treatment in each state, to switch to other regimes “to tide through the crisis situation as an interim arrangement”.

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