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Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) highlighted the exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar and called for reforms today at a hearing held by the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee. Sunjeev Bery, AIUSA Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, testified before the committee concerning the on-the-ground reality for thousands of foreign migrant workers toiling in preparation for the 2022 World Cup and concrete steps that can be taken to improve their working and living conditions.

Through multiple on-the-ground investigations in Qatar, Amnesty International has documented human rights abuses by employers and the failure of the government to protect workers from abuse. Under the government’s Kafala employment sponsorship system, foreign nationals cannot change employers or leave the country without the permission of their current employer, which can lead to conditions of forced labor for many workers.

“The deeply flawed Kafala sponsorship system is a recipe for worker abuse,” said Bery. “As a first step, Qatar must abolish the inherently abusive policies that give employers the power to decide whether a migrant worker can leave the country or take another job.”

The government of Qatar is ultimately responsible for worker abuses, but FIFA has a clear responsibility to act given the high risk of abuse in staging and hosting the World Cup there. “Migrant workers are on the front line of delivering the World Cup experience in Qatar," said Bery. "FIFA has failed so far to take concrete actions to ensure that Qatar’s World Cup will not be based on labor exploitation.”

In his testimony, Bery set out the reforms that Qatar must implement to substantially improve conditions for migrant workers as well as the steps that FIFA and the U.S. government should take to spur on their implementation. Bery’s full testimony is available here.