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Inside Qatar’s ‘other’ fan zone: a night watching football with Qatar’s migrant workers | World Cup 2022

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It has the big screen, the pumping music and the Fifa branding, but this is a fan zone with a difference. There are no visiting supporters, no women, no team colours and certainly no beer. The clue is in the venue: a cricket stadium on the edge of Doha. Inside, thousands of mostly south Asian low-wage labourers, fill the stands or sit cross-legged on the grassy outfield.

It is a world away from the polished face of Doha that most fans will see. The stadium fan zone is within Asian Town, a shopping and entertainment complex purpose-built for Qatar’s migrant workers about 30 minutes by car from the city centre. A vast expanse of warehouses, workshops and accommodation blocks stretches out for miles on one side, housing hundreds of thousands of workers, often in grim, crowded dorms.

On a wall near the entrance to the fan zone, a banner in Arabic, English and Hindi reads: “Thanks for your contributions for delivering the best Fifa World Cup ever.”

Visitors to the fan zone for migrant workers in Doha, Qatar during an evening event.
The entrance to the fan zone for migrant workers in Doha, Qatar. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

Many here probably played a part in building the stadiums and infrastructure for the tournament, but gratitude has its limits. While some match tickets went on sale for Qatar residents for just 40 rials (£9), no one the Guardian spoke to had managed to get one. Any that were available were far too expensive for workers who earn as little as £225 a month.

Without a match ticket, they are unable to register for a Hayya card, which is needed to enter the main fan zones in Doha. Even if they could, the efficient and cheap Metro does not reach this part of the city, forcing workers to take more costly alternatives.

The fan zone, and Asian Town itself, highlight the parallel lives that many migrant workers inhabit. Critics say it entrenches divisions, the unspoken message being: you can have your restaurants, shops and fan zone, as long as you don’t come to ours.

In the migrant worker fan zone in Doha, Qatar, people watch the Spain v Costa Rica match at night on a big screen.
People watch the Spain v Costa Rica match in the migrant worker fan zone. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

As the match between Spain and Costa Rica kicks off, Dilip Kumar Mandal from Nepal looks thrilled. “I come every night. I like the environment,” he says. Asked which team he is supporting, he pauses and says, “The red one.”

“I’d like to be in a stadium, but I have no money. Whatever I earn, I have to send home for my children’s education,” he adds.

Mandal, a mason, is just happy to be there. Before the World Cup began, 350 of his workmates were ordered home, as his company, like many others, wound down its work on instructions from the government.

As Spain score their first goal, he punches the air. “Yes! I knew they’d score,” he says, his face glowing red in the light of the giant screen.

Sitting nearby, Stephen* from Ghana works at the airport, transferring inflight meals to the planes. It’s his day off, but during the week, “All I do is work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep,” he says. Like Dilip, he could not afford a match ticket, but unlike him, he speaks about football as fluently as the Spanish play it. As another goal slides in, he enthuses about Ghana’s chances: “I just hope I can get off work to watch them,” he says.

As half-time approaches, hundreds surge towards the stage, and are soon rewarded, not by another goal, but by an MC and her four female dancers. She gives a shoutout to, “My African friends”, before reeling off the other countries that make up the bulk of Qatar’s migrant workforce: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Close up images of visitors to the migrant workers fan zone on the edge of Doha, Qatar, during an evening World Cup match.
Some workers are happy to be in Qatar for the World Cup having seen workmates sent home pre-tournament as firms wound down their operations. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

There are no team colours or flags on display. With the exception of Ghana, none of these nations qualified for the World Cup and so decisions about who to support appear to be determined by a favourite player or the colour of a shirt.

In the stands, Mohammed Malik from Bangladesh says he comes to watch the matches every day. He has nothing better to do. “My company stopped sending us to work because we can’t access our worksite during the World Cup. They’ve stopped paying us too,” says the 42-year-old carpenter.

Yam Kumar Rajbanshi, a forklift operator, is another regular in the fan zone. “I come every night. I love football more than cricket. Brazil will win,” he says confidently. Rajbanshi, from Nepal, said a ticket for a match cost too much – half his monthly salary – but he did not seem to care. “It’s better to watch here!”

Migrant workers watch Qatar v Ecuador on a big screen from the cricket ground fan zone on the edge of Doha.
Migrant workers watch Qatar v Ecuador from the cricket ground fan zone on the edge of Doha. Photograph: Marko Đurica/Reuters

As Spain stroll to a 7-0 win, the workers who helped make it possible, saunter back to their dorms, a band of south Indian drummers sending them on their way.

* name changed to protect the individual’s identity

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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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