‘Dark days in Qatar’: Nepali workers face bitter legacy of World Cup debts

For thousands of low-paid workers, this year’s games brought back only memories of abuse and exploitation

On a huge billboard in front of Kathmandu’s international airport, is a picture of five migrant workers with the words: “Meet the hardest working team in Qatar. Wouldn’t it be great if they were compensated for it?”

Just metres away, hundreds of young men board flights to Qatar and other Gulf states every day, hoping to earn enough to look after the families they leave behind. About 400,000 Nepalis work in Qatar and many toiled for years on its preparations for the World Cup.

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What do you mean, day off?

Workers tell of sweatshop conditions at Thai factory used by Tesco, as supermarket says it knew nothing of claims about VKG

In a factory at the Myanmar border in Thailand, hundreds of Burmese workers made F&F jeans for Tesco. They describe sweatshop conditions, with 99-hour weeks, one day off a month and illegally low pay.

Now Tesco is facing a landmark British lawsuit for alleged negligence, having used the VK Garment (VKG) factory in Mae Sot as a supplier to its Thai business from 2017 until the supermarket sold its operations in Asia in December 2020. The case is being brought by 130 former garment workers at the factory.

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The Great Abandonment: the extraordinary exodus of India’s migrant labourers – video

In 2020, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced one of the harshest Covid lockdowns in the world, causing nearly 200 million migrant labourers to be stranded without wages, food and housing. Many undertook long journeys to return to their home villages, while others, caught in limbo with their families, were forced to wait, living on the street or under the flyovers they had once laboured to build. 

And as workers' rights eroded, the push for unionisation gathered momentum in the country. Filmed in Mumbai, this documentary reveals the deep divide between those who have and those who do not, while questioning the actions of India's leader

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Lady of the Gobi: trucking coal across the desert to China

On Mongolia’s coal highway to the Chinese border, truck driver Maikhuu dreams of a better life and financial security for her three children. However, the road from the mines to China is riddled with accidents, toxic pollution, poor hygiene and now, amid the Covid crisis, drivers face days of quarantine on the border. Trapped in a hazardous industry, Maikhuu’s journey reflects the human and environmental costs of Mongolia’s mining boom

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Lady of the Gobi: trucking coal across the desert to China

On Mongolia’s coal highway to the Chinese border, truck driver Maikhuu dreams of a better life and financial security for her three children. However, the road from the mines to China is riddled with accidents, toxic pollution, poor hygiene and now,  amid the Covid crisis, drivers face days of quarantine on the border. Trapped in a hazardous industry, Maikhuu's journey reflects the human and environmental costs of Mongolia’s mining boom

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Migrant workers in Qatar left in debt after being ordered home before World Cup starts

Early end to migrants’ contracts leaves many owing large sums to recruiters and unable to support their families

World Cup hotel shields England team from fans – and Qatar’s labour abuses

Thousands of poorly paid migrant workers in Qatar are being forced to return home before the World Cup, leaving many fearing they will be left jobless, unable to support their families and deep in debt.

In some cases, workers say they have been sent back before the end of their contracts or without receiving their full salary or allowances.

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Hong Kong NETs – foreign teachers of English – forced to take allegiance oath

Authoritarian measures are widened to meet Chinese loyalty requirements, despite fears it will worsen teacher shortages

Foreign English-language teachers working in Hong Kong government schools will need to swear allegiance to the city, officials have ordered, as fears grow about the territory’s ability to retain educators in the face of increasing restrictions.

Hong Kong’s education bureau said on Saturday that native-speaking English teachers (NETs) and advisers working in government-run schools must sign a declaration by 21 June in order to continue working.

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H&M pledges to end shopfloor sexual violence in India after worker killed

Landmark agreement to protect garment workers from violence follows last year’s murder of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a Dalit woman

H&M has signed a legally binding agreement with one of its largest Indian clothing suppliers that pledges to end sexual violence and harassment against women on the factory floor after the murder of a young garment worker by her supervisor last year.

In January 2021, Jeyasre Kathiravel, a 20-year-old Dalit woman, was found dead on farmland near her family home after finishing a shift at Natchi Apparel, a factory making clothes for H&M in Kaithian Kottai, Tamil Nadu.

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Revealed: migrant workers in Qatar forced to pay billions in recruitment fees

Guardian investigation finds labourers – including those on World Cup-related projects – were left with huge debts

Low-wage migrant workers have been forced to pay billions of dollars in recruitment fees to secure their jobs in World Cup host nation Qatar over the past decade, a Guardian investigation has found.

Bangladeshi men migrating to Qatar are likely to have paid about $1.5bn (£1.14bn) in fees, and possibly as high as $2bn, between 2011 and 2020. Nepali men are estimated to have paid around $320m, and possibly more than $400m, in the four years between mid-2015 to mid-2019.

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Britain hands billions to projects linked to labour abuse and climate damage

UK Export Finance used £5.24bn of taxpayer money to fund overseas energy and infrastructure ventures – despite its own review raising concerns

The British government has provided more than £5bn in the past three years to overseas energy and infrastructure projects linked to labour abuses and environmental damage, according to documents and interviews with workers.

The funding – a combination of loans and guarantees – comes from the government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), a government department to help UK companies access business contracts overseas.

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Low turnout for India’s national two-day strike as 50 million join protests

Unions say strike over ‘anti-worker’ government policies a success despite limited impact, with far fewer than predicted taking part

An estimated 50 million people joined India’s two-day national strike this week, a fraction of the number expected to protest.

Bank, factory and public transport workers disrupted services in six states on Monday and Tuesday, but the strike had limited impact across the rest of the country.

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Up to 10,000 Asian migrant workers die in the Gulf every year, claims report

Campaigners say not enough is being done to prevent loss of life and the causes of death are not being properly investigated

As many as 10,000 migrant workers from south and south-east Asia die every year in the Gulf countries, according to a report by a group of human rights organisations.

More than half of the deaths are unexplained, said the report, and are commonly recorded as due to “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest”. But Gulf states are failing properly to investigate why so many migrant workers are dying.

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Indian supplier to UK fashion brands agrees to pay £3m in unpaid wages

Shahi Exports, which makes clothes for the UK high street, has agreed to pay staff minimum wage and arrears

India’s largest garment company has paid out an estimated £3m in unpaid wages to tens of thousands of workers, after two years of refusing to pay the legal minimum wage.

Last month Shahi Exports, which supplies dozens of international brands, agreed to pay nine months of back pay to about 80,000 workers, with further payments expected in the coming months that will increase the total paid back to workers to £7m.

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‘A bad dream’: Nepalis who made UK’s PPE speak out on claims of abusive working conditions

Glove manufacturer Supermax has repeatedly won NHS contracts during the pandemic, despite claims of forced labour. Now, a group of former workers are seeking justice

“I don’t have any dreams for the future because every dream depends on money,” says Resham, a 45-year-old from Banke, a district in Nepal bordering the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “Time is passing and I’m getting older. Whatever comes my way, I will face it and go ahead with life.”

Last year, Resham returned to Nepal after spending 10 years working at Supermax, a company producing medical gloves in Malaysia. In October, the US banned imports from Supermax based on evidence “that indicates the use of forced labour”, and the month after, Canada terminated its contracts. The UK, meanwhile, has named the British subsidiary of Supermax as an approved supplier in a new £6bn contract for gloves for NHS workers.

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Revolutionary roads: how the army tried to crush Yangon’s most anti-coup district

Hlaing Thayar was at the centre of Myanmar’s protests, but brutal crackdowns and the collapse of the local garment industry have taken their toll

As Thitsar* walked through her neighbourhood one December morning, she was struck by its emptiness. The bamboo shacks that line the streets of Hlaing Tharyar, an industrial township on the outskirts of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, lay in tatters, overgrown with weeds. The vendors who once weaved through traffic had vanished, as had many of the informal settlements where they lived and the roadside tea shops where they gathered.

Streets that had once resounded with chants for democracy were now eerily silent.

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