The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled due to the pandemic and F1’s replacement is Qatar. F1 also announced that Qatar have also signed a 10-year deal to host Formula One races from 2023. Many fans are not pleased. Let’s get into why because it’s a doozy.
Many fans have called out Qatar for their poor human rights record. One user on Reddit, u/Giglefreakz, took to the r/formula1 subreddit and highlighted a few of the issues of Qatar hosting the Grand Prix using sources to back up his argument.
The first example brought up comes from Qatar building venues for their turn to host the FIFA World Cup. The Guardian revealed that since the country won the right to host the World Cup, more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri-Lanka have died building the venues.
The results were compiled from government sources and it was found that on average of 12 migrant workers have died each week since December 2010.
According to Human Rights Watch, Qatar relies almost entirely on two million migrants that make up 95% of the country’s workforce in sectors like construction and domestic work. Qatar also does not publish any regular, verifiable statistics on “average pay, length of stay, or legal status in the country.”
For the past four years, the Human Rights Watch have constantly urged Qatar to investigate the “causes of unexpected or unexplained deaths among often young and otherwise healthy migrant workers, and to regularly make such data—broken down by age, gender, occupation, and cause of death—publicly available.” Qatar have refused.
The abuses faced by workers are systemic in nature as most of the issues faced by migrant workers stem from the country’s labour governance system, kafala (sponsorship). This system ties a migrant worker’s legal status in the country to their employer. It’s a criminal act to abscond i.e., leave an employer without permission to get another job. Migrant workers also find their passports confiscated by employers often. They also are forced to pay a recruitment fee in order to secure their jobs which often leaves them in debt for years.
Since 2017, Qatar have stated that they will remove the abusive aspects of the kafala system due to global pressure. Some of the reforms included was the lifting of the exit permit requirements that kept workers tied to their employees. There is also now a non-discriminatory minimum wage but this has not been enough to eliminate wage abuse.
That’s all well and good but there is still an inadequate implementation and oversight of current legal provisions which means that many of the new legal protections don’t actually translate onto the jobsite. Employers can still pick and choose what protections to offer because no one is really enforcing the laws.
This has brought into question F1’s motives and morals. Another Reddit user, u/Otto910, has compiled a graph that shows how democratic each nation hosting the races has been over the last 16 years. This should be taken with a grain of salt though as it has been compiled not by any government source or reliable institution. However, the user does use the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit which is a respected source of information. The results are below:
You can see that the index is slipping rapidly which has led to people calling Formula One hypocrites as they have the hashtag, #WeRaceAsOne, which now seems ridiculous. Cash is king it certainly seems for F1.
While it can be seen as a move to be more inclusive of developing nations into the sport, is it worth the cost? It’s clear that many people have suffered to bring the races to these nations or the nations themselves have a history of abusing human rights, like Azerbaijan who continue to increase restrictions on civil liberties like press freedom and political repression.
It seems simple for F1 to simply not involve themselves with countries like these but that could be seen as discriminatory and we’re forgetting the most important reason – cash is king. While every country has some dark chapters in their history, if a country is currently performing those dark acts, they should not be rewarded for it.