With Qatar World Cup looming, Amnesty again urges FIFA to compensate migrant workers

Less than two weeks before the controversial Qatar World Cup kick-off, Amnesty International has issued a final appeal to world football’s governing body, FIFA, to compensate the migrant workers who built the stadiums for the tournament .

The plight of migrant workers in Qatar, as well as LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf state, has sparked a backlash ahead of the tournament, which begins on November 20.

In May, Amnesty, along with 23 other organisations, including Human Rights Watch and the Independent Supporters Council North America, wrote an open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino urging “a remedy for the labor abuses behind the Cup of the world 2022”.

The letter urged Infantino to work with the Qatari government, trade unions and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to compensate migrant workers for “serious labor abuses”.

In an op-ed published in international media on Friday, Amnesty secretary Agnes Callamard again urged FIFA to take action. “Amid this growing clamor, the most crucial voice of all has remained remarkably silent: Gianni Infantino,” she wrote, noting the FIFA president.

“Despite FIFA’s private and public assurances that they are ‘considering the proposal’, Infantino, a few platitudes aside, has always dodged the subject. To date, he has not provided any response to our joint letter,” he said. she added.

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supported calls for financial compensation, according to Amnesty.

Callamard also slammed a recent letter from Infantino and FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura to the 32 World Cup squads, urging them to “focus on football”.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without giving moral lessons to the rest of the world,” the letter added.

In his op-ed, Callamard said Infantino had “presided over a notable change in the governing body’s approach to human rights”, but described his letter as “a crude attempt to evade the FIFA’s culpability for these abuses and its responsibility towards these workers”.

“Embedded in (FIFA’s) own policies is a commitment to remedy the human rights abuses to which it has contributed,” she wrote. “Given the well-documented history of workers’ rights abuses in Qatar, FIFA knew – or should have known – the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar.”

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FIFA is implementing a worker protection due diligence process in Qatar, which focuses on companies building World Cup infrastructure, including stadiums and training venues, as well as contractors services in sectors such as hospitality, security and transport. The organization has also set up grievance mechanisms with Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup. In December 2021, workers would have received $22.6 million in reimbursement for recruitment costs, with an additional $5.7 million incurred by contractors.

“Over the past two decades, Qatar has embarked on an overhaul of its labor system, with significant steps taken to benefit the millions of workers in our country,” a Qatari government official said in a statement sent by e e-mail to MarketWatch.

The official said that in 2018, Qatar announced the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, which compensates workers who are injured or die as a result of a work-related incident, or if workers have not received their salary due to their employer. be unable to pay. “$350 million has been disbursed this year through the Fund,” the official added.

The toll of construction workers in Qatar remains in the spotlight, with Amnesty International documenting thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010, when the World Cup was awarded. In 2021, the Guardian reported that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since 2010.

The fatalities cited by Qatar are significantly lower. Since construction began in 2014, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has reportedly recorded just three work-related fatalities at World Cup venues and 37 non-work-related fatalities among workers at the facility. world Cup.

Qatar describes the letter sent by Amnesty in May as inaccurate. “We have never been shy about offering constructive criticism, but the mortality figures reported by the media – and Amnesty’s letter – have always been proven to be inaccurate and extremely misleading,” the Qatari government official said. . “The reality is that what Qatar has achieved in a few years has taken decades to achieve in other parts of the world.”

In a televised address last month, Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, criticized the country, which he described as an “unprecedented campaign” against the first Arab nation to host the World Cup. Qatar has repeatedly pushed back against international criticism, saying it has improved conditions for migrant workers. The country has also denied Amnesty’s allegations of exploitation of migrant workers.

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