Campaign update: FIFA and Qatar government responding to our pressure

By Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrants Rights Researcher

Together we called on football’s governing body, FIFA, and the Qatari government to protect migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup – and they’ve started to listen.

In March 2016, we exposed the exploitation of migrant workers building the Khalifa International Stadium, which will host a semi-final of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

An artist's impression of the Khalifa International Stadium. © Handout/Getty Images.

We showed how they face extortionate recruitment fees, delayed payment of salaries, dirty and overcrowded accommodation and passport confiscation. Some workers had even been subjected to forced labour.

Small signs of progress

Thousands of you signed our petition calling for change, and so far there have been three small signs that FIFA and the Qatari government are starting to listen:

1. The Qatari government has said it will investigate the main construction companies named in our report.

2. FIFA has admitted it did not raise human rights concerns with the local organising committee in Qatar until May 2015 – four years after it was awarded the World Cup. It also said that before 2015 it did not consider the construction of World Cup stadiums to be its responsibility.

3. The new FIFA President visited the Khalifa International Stadium and announced a new body to monitor working conditions in stadiums used for the 2022 World Cup. This is the most concrete step FIFA has yet taken on human rights in the context of the Qatar tournament.

Your pressure helped make these small steps towards change possible – thank you. Finally, it appears FIFA is waking up to the fact that unless it takes concrete action, the Qatar 2022 World Cup will be built on the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers.

No PR stunt

Despite the progress, we need to make sure this isn’t just a FIFA PR stunt, as the situation is becoming increasingly urgent. The construction of the World Cup is expected to peak in the middle of 2017, with the workforce on tournament projects expected to reach 36,000 in the next two years. 

We still need to do all we can to ensure they are protected from abuse and exploitation. All future inspections of working conditions must be made public, together with any findings and remedial actions for workers whose rights have been abused.

Construction workers on the Khalifa International Stadium. Credit: 2016 Getty Images

FIFA also needs to publicly call for urgent reform of the sponsorship system which traps workers in abusive situations. Migrant workers account for 90% of Qatar’s workforce – they should all be able to change jobs and leave the country without needing their boss’s permission.

Keep the pressure on

If these changes do not happen soon it will be too late to prevent a World Cup built on exploitation. Football fans travelling to Qatar are likely to meet migrant workers in hotels, sports venues, restaurants and shops facing daily abuse.

Thank you again to everyone who has demanded action so far. If you haven’t yet done so, please sign our petition and call on FIFA to protect Qatar’s migrant workers.