Human rights group Amnesty International has urged FIFA to earmark at least $440 million to compensate migrant workers who it says have suffered labor abuses in the preparations for the men’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In an open letter sent to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Amnesty International and a selection of other human rights groups said world soccer’s governing body should work with Qatar to “establish a comprehensive programme to ensure all labor abuses to which FIFA contributed are remedied.”
“With six months until the opening of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have not received adequate remedy, including financial compensation, for serious labour abuses they suffered while building and servicing infrastructure essential for the preparation and delivery of the World Cup in Qatar,” the letter read.
“FIFA should reserve an amount not less than the US$440 million prize money offered to teams participating in the World Cup, to be invested in funds to support remediation.”
There has been widespread criticism of the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar during the buildup to the tournament.
Amnesty International says the issues, which include unsafe working conditions and excessive hours, are “widespread” in the country.
The letter also said Qatari authorities have “failed to investigate the causes of deaths of thousands of migrant workers since 2010.”
While recognizing the progress made to protect workers’ rights in the country, it said help came too late and that the country’s “kafala sponsorship system” allowed “unscrupulous employers to abuse migrant workers with impunity.”
“While it may be too late to erase the suffering of past abuses, FIFA and Qatar can and should act to provide redress and prevent further abuses from taking place,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Providing compensation to workers who gave so much to make the tournament happen, and taking steps to make sure such abuses never happen again, could represent a major turning point in FIFA’s commitment to respect human rights.”
FIFA said it welcomed Amnesty’s acknowledgment of labor reforms within the country and said it, alongside Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), was “implementing an unprecedented due diligence process” in relation to protecting workers involved in World Cup preparations.
It also said it was “currently assessing the programme proposed by Amnesty International” but that the report covered “a wide range of non-FIFA World Cup-specific public infrastructure built since 2010.”
“When companies working in relation to the FIFA World Cup breach their obligations, FIFA and the SC work to ensure the wrong is made right by the entity that caused the impact, usually the company employing the respective worker,” a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
“As a consequence of the Workers’ Welfare initiatives by the tournament organisers, countless workers have received remediation in various forms, including the payment of outstanding wages, the repayment of recruitment fees through the SC’s universal reimbursement scheme and other forms of compensation.
“As part of the SC’s effort to ensure repayment of recruitment fees, for example, workers have received payments of a total of $22.6 million as at December 2021, with an additional $5.7 million committed by contractors.
“Other forms of remediation include the strengthening of company practice to ensure non-repetition, or punitive measures imposed by the tournament organisers or the Ministry of Labour.”
In a statement, SC said it has “worked tirelessly to ensure the rights of every worker engaged on Qatar’s FIFA World Cup projects are respected.”
Qatari officials have strongly contested accusations of workers’ rights abuses in previous statements.
Earlier this year, Qatar 2022 Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi said that his nation had “spent 12 years of continuous work dedicated to delivering a tournament that leaves truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies.”
In response to Amnesty International’s latest report, Qatar’s Ministry of Labour said the country’s “labour reforms will continue to take place at a pace that ensures holistic and lasting change.”
“The new report undermines much of the goodwill that has been generated. Engagement will always yield better results than condemnation, especially when they are unreasonably demanded,” a statement read.
Earlier this month, Infantino was asked about whether FIFA would make any commitment to families of people who died in the preparations for the tournament.
“When it comes to the building of World Cup stadiums – we are investigating all these matters with external entities – it is actually three persons who died,” he said, addressing the criticism leveled at FIFA and Qatari officials about migrant workers.
“When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride. It’s not charity. You don’t make charity.
“You don’t give something to somebody and say, ‘OK, stay where you are. I feel good because I can give you something.’”
The 2022 World Cup is set to run between November 21 and December 18 later this year.