Gianni Infantino must use his meetings with Qatari officials to press for reform of laws that leave migrant workers at risk of exploitation and abuse, sometimes even forced labor, said Amnesty International before the FIFA President visits Qatar from 20-22 April.
“Gianni Infantino has a golden opportunity to show that under his Presidency FIFA will promote human rights. Without robust engagement starting right now, every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 is likely to directly encounter migrant workers – in hotels, sports venues, shops – whose human rights have been abused,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Gulf Migrants Rights Researcher.
“It is essential that FIFA publicly call on Qatar to tackle the systematic exploitation and abuse of World Cup workers, largely driven by the sponsorship system in Qatari law that leaves workers at the mercy of their employers. Amnesty International spoke to more than 200 workers and every single one of them reported abuse of one kind or another. And that was at just one stadium and its surrounding facilities. What happens when work on seven brand new stadiums peaks in 2017?
“So far Gianni Infantino’s response to revelations of abuse on Khalifa stadium in Doha has been business as usual for FIFA: heavy on PR, light on tangible reform. FIFA laid the foundations for a World Cup built on abuse with five years of laissez-faire response to reports of abuse in Qatar. If Infantino fails to confront the issue during this visit, in the face of well-documented abuses, he will erect the scaffolding for continuing exploitation.”
On 31 March 2016, Amnesty International published a report exposing abuse of construction workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, which will host a World Cup semi-final in 2022.
FIFA’s response was shockingly indifferent to the abuses, which in some cases amounted to forced labor. The main contractors named in the report were unaware of abusive companies operating on their worksites. Some of the companies also claimed to be ignorant of the fact that their workers had paid huge fees to work in Qatar and were being paid less than initially promised.
The report said FIFA must call on the Qatari authorities to publish a timetable for systematic reform ahead of an expected mid-2017 peak in World Cup construction, when the number of World Cup stadium workers is expected to hit 36,000.
On 14 April, John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, published a FIFA-commissioned report on the organization’s business practices. While the report set out broad organizational human rights measures, it does not specifically tackle the human rights crisis in Qatar.