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From taxi drivers to security guards: the migrant workers in Qatar who football fans might meet | World Cup 2022

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It is a World Cup of superlatives: the most expensive, the most controversial – and it will be delivered by perhaps the most diverse workforce.

During your stay you in Qatar, you are likely to interact with more nationalities than there are teams in the World Cup. That begins the moment you step off the plane.

As you walk through Doha’s immaculate Hamad International airport almost everyone you meet – from cleaners in the toilets and security guards on patrol, to helpers guiding you through immigration – will be a migrant worker, as 95% of Qatar’s working population is from overseas.

Step outside and grab a taxi to your hotel, and you may meet someone like Saeed from Pakistan. Just be sure that he is alert.

“I’m so tired. I work 15, 16, 18 hours a day. What to do? We need to make money, so we have to work,” he says.

A Doha taxi
Taxi drivers work long hours to Composite: Guardian Design/Getty Images/AFP

He earns between 100 and 300 rials (£23-£70) a day, but that gets whittled away by the fee he has to pay to rent the car, along with petrol, insurance and the annual cost of his visa. Much of what he earns is sent home to his wife and three young children, who he has not seen for almost two years. “I came here to support my family. If I don’t send them money, they don’t eat,” he says. “I miss them so much, but I’m happy because I can help them.”

Saeed is hopeful business will pick up during the World Cup. “It’s good for everyone. People are coming from lots of countries,” he says.

As Saeed drops you at your hotel, you may not notice the security guard standing discreetly at the entrance, but if you come out to explore 12 hours later, John may still be there. Such long shifts are not unusual in hotels here, especially among sub-contracted security companies, like the one he works for.

“In Uganda the income is not good so I decided to come to Qatar to look for the green pasture,” says John. He is yet to find it.

Like the vast majority of low-wage workers in Qatar, John had to pay an agent in his own country for his job. It cost him about £1,125, which he paid for with a loan that came with a 10% interest rate. He used the land his family live on as security for the loan.

“You work for the debt, the debt does not go, the debt is growing … remember the whole family is on your land; what if they take the land?”

John says he earns about 1,700 rials a month including overtime pay. “If you compare the work and the money, it is not enough. I feel bad, but there’s nothing to do. You must work if you are looking for greener pastures.”

Shafiq is also a security guard at one of Doha’s top hotels, but he has had a different experience. Unlike John, he was recruited from Bangladesh directly by the hotel, at no cost. He works long hours but they are within the legal limit, and he knows it. “Our hotel teaches us about our rights,” he says.

He pulls out his phone and proudly shows a photo of his twin sons, born a couple of months ago. Asked if he has been home to see them, he shakes his head, eyes brimming with tears, “My mother suffered a stroke recently and so I need to stay here to earn enough money for her treatment,” he says.

A food delivery rider on a scooter.
Many food delivery drivers have been brought to Qatar by supply companies as subcontracted workers. Composite: Guardian Design/Reuters/Getty Images

With thousands of fans put up in apartments, and even modified shipping containers, demand for food delivery services will soar, which should come as good news for Abbas, who is from Pakistan.

Before the World Cup, he was lucky to earn 60 rials in a 14-hour day. Much of that time was spent waiting for orders.

The company he works for is not his employer. Instead, he is hired by what is called a “supply company” and sent out to work for the delivery firm. As such, he’s the last to get an order, and is usually dispatched to the most remote locations.

“Supply companies have brought a lot of workers over for the World Cup. There are too many riders and not enough orders,” says Abbas. “Two of my friends have already gone back. I’ll only stay if I can get a better job.”

If you would prefer to head out for a meal, Doha’s metro system will get you there. It is clean, efficient and staffed by polite, eager people. They are clearly proud of their role, but also a little nervous.

A metro worker.
During the tournament, Doha’s metro will be staffed by a combination of regular workers and ‘volunteers’. Composite: Guardian Design/Getty Images/AFP

“The only thing you can do is stay sane and stay alive! The Arab Cup [held a year ago] was crazy, a lot of noise and people falling over. The World Cup will be even more,” says Gloria from the Philippines.

Throughout the World Cup, regular staff like Gloria will be supported by thousands of “volunteers”, like Mohan. They have been hired for three months, just for the World Cup, and are paid a small salary. Mohan, who is from India, is happy with the deal because he hopes to stay on afterwards. “My main intention is to get a permanent job over here,” he says, admitting he is job hunting on his days off.

“It will be challenging to manage the crowd. I like these challenges and I’m eager to work in this World Cup,” he says. Asked if he likes football, he says, “I play football but I like cricket the most.” Only in Qatar would football’s global showcase be delivered with the help of an army of cricket lovers.

Construction workers
Thousands of construction workers have been sent home as building projects pause during the World Cup. Composite: Guardian Design/AP/Getty Images

There is one group of workers you may not see much of: the low-wage construction labourers who built the airport you arrived at, the roads you drive along and the hotel you stay in. Much construction has been put on hold for six months due to the World Cup and thousands of workers, like Baburam, have been sent home.

Back in Nepal, he says he is now in a worse condition than when he left for Qatar because he was sent back before he was able to repay his recruitment debt. “The workers are not getting any benefits. They are being sent home because of the World Cup,” says Baburam. “Our family’s situation was already bad and now its even worse. Whatever we had before we’ve lost.”

* All names have been changed to protect workers’ identities.

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

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Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

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VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

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“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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