FIFA and the Qatari government should pay at least £355m in compensation for human rights abuses of migrant workers who have worked on infrastructure projects for the 2022 World Cup, according to Amnesty International.
The upcoming tournament has been plagued by controversy ever since it was awarded to the Gulf state in 2010, and the dreadful treatment of migrant workers has provoked an international Scan**l. Just over a year ago, an revealed that over 6,500 workers had died while working on preparation for the competition, with thousands of low-paid workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka among the deceased.
Qatar is believed to have built up a migrant workforce of over two million since its successful bid for the World Cup, undertaking an infrastructure project on an unprecedented scale. ‘A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,’ said Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, in 2021.
Now Amnesty, the international organisation focused on human rights, says in a new report that FIFA should match the value of the prize money it will give out to teams at the World Cup in compensation for workers and their families in regards to unpaid wages, recruitment fees, injuries and deaths. That figure stands at £355m.
‘This amount reflects a likely “floor” for the scale of the harms suffered, in addition to the need to invest in programmes to ensure that abuses are not repeated in the future,’ read the report.
Qatar is an immensely wealthy country thanks to its oil and gas and exports, and boasts a sovereign wealth fund of £363bn. The report adds that the Qatarai state ‘is obliged to ensure remedy for all abuses on its territory, whether linked to the World Cup or not.’
FIFA and Qatar both insist they have improved working practices in recent years, but Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnes Callamard says changes have not gone far enough and the voices of those being abused have been silenced.
‘For years, the suffering of those who made this possible has been brushed under the carpet,’ she said ‘It is about time and Qatar came together to work on a comprehensive remediation programme that puts workers at its centre and ensures that no harm remains unaddressed.
‘Under international law and by FIFA’s own rulebook, both Qatar and FIFA have obligations and responsibilities respectively to prevent human rights abuses and provide remedy to victims.’
The report also calls on the England team, which is among the favourites to the win the tournament this winter, to take a stand in favour of human rights. Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, said that the money Amnesty International believes is owed to workers is small fry for an organisation as wealthy as FIFA.
‘International football can easily afford to do the right thing here,’ he said. ‘This is a comparatively small share of FIFA’s enormous prize money pot – and it would provide some real redress for the serious human rights violations that underpin this tournament.’
In response to the report, FIFA sought to defend itself and the human rights record of Qatar, saying it was ‘implementing an unprecedented due diligence,’ before adding: ‘FIFA and Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) have put in place their own grievance mechanisms and have required companies operating in the context of the FIFA World Cup to do the same.’
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is due to begin with Senegal vs Netherlands on Monday 21 November, with the final scheduled for Sunday 18 December.
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