Qatar “turning a blind eye” to abuse of World Cup migrant workers says Amnesty

Cover of Amnesty International report about World Cup 2022

Labour abuses are still happening “on a significant scale” in Qatar despite “noticeable improvements” to migrant workers’ conditions ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, says Amnesty International.

In a report published today, human rights organisation Amnesty International stated that many workers are still “subjected to conditions that amount to forced labour” in Qatar.

“Although Qatar has made important strides on labour rights over the past five years, it’s abundantly clear that there is a great distance still to go,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International.

“Thousands of workers remain stuck in the familiar cycle of exploitation and abuse thanks to legal loopholes and inadequate enforcement.”

“Progress must not grind to a halt”

Named Unfinished Business: what Qatar must do to fulfil promises on migrant workers’ rights, the report highlights the group’s concerns that following the World Cup, which starts next month, progress made to improve migrant workers’ conditions will stop.

“With the World Cup looming, the job of protecting migrant workers from exploitation is only half done, while that of compensating those who have suffered abuses has barely started,” said Cockburn.

“Progress must not grind to a halt once the World Cup roadshow leaves Doha.”

Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup, which takes place from 20 November to 18 December, in eight stadiums built for the event, many of which are located in the country’s capital Doha.

Deaths remain uninvestigated says Amnesty

The country has been widely criticised over the conditions experienced by migrant workers who are largely building the stadiums and other World Cup infrastructure. In 2016, Amnesty International highlighted the abuses experienced and accused Qatar of using forced labour on World Cup sites.

In 2021, the Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers had died in the county in the decade after it won the right to host the event in 2020. According to Amnesty International, thousands of these deaths remain uninvestigated.

Football’s governing body FIFA, however, claims that there have only been 37 deaths connected to the construction of the World Cup stadiums.

According to Amnesty International, Qatar has made several notable labour reforms since 2017 including introducing a minimum wage, labour tribunals and a support fund to pay unpaid wages.

However, the country has yet to introduce a fund to compensate the workers who have died or suffered abuse building the tournament venues and infrastructure, which Amnesty International is calling for.

“Time is fast running out”

“Despite huge and growing support in favour of compensating migrant workers among fans, football associations, and sponsors, Qatar and FIFA are still not budging,” said Cockburn.

“With only a month to go, time is fast running out for them to do the right thing,” he continued.

“Turning a blind eye to the abuses suffered by thousands of migrant workers over the years flies in the face of their respective international obligations and responsibilities. They must come together to ensure that those who suffered so much to make this tournament possible are not left behind.”

Last month the Danish national team announced it would play games at the tournament in toned-down football kits, designed by sports brand Hummel, as a protest against the event being hosted in Qatar.

“The new Denmark jerseys for the upcoming World Cup have been designed as a protest against Qatar and its human rights record,” said the brand.

“FA has a responsibility” to speak out on Qatar’s labour reforms

UK-based Amnesty International is urging the English Football Association (FA) to make a clear statement on workers’ conditions and LGBT+ rights in Qatar.

“There have been thousands of unexplained deaths of migrant workers in Qatar during the last decade, labour reforms while welcome are still extremely patchy, and LGBTI rights are non-existent and threaten to remain so after the World Cup has come and gone from Qatar,” said Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh.

“With kick-off now almost upon us, the FA has a responsibility to say loudly and clearly that Qatar’s labour reforms urgently need reinforcing, that a FIFA-backed worker compensation fund needs to become a reality, and that Qatar must go beyond merely saying LGTBI fans are ‘welcome’ and instead abolish the country’s shocking anti-LGBTI laws.”

Along with working conditions, the tournament has also been criticised on an environmental basis as Qatar was accused of making misleading promises about the amount of carbon produced by the event.

A report released by non-profit advocacy group Carbon Market Watch said claims that the tournament will be the “first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup in history” are “far-fetched” and rely on “creative accounting”.

The image is courtesy of Amnesty International.

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