FIFA President Gianni Infantino cannot afford to continue the organization’s indifference to human rights abuses in Qatar, said Amnesty International today, following the publication of a report identifying major shortcomings in FIFA’s policies and practices.
FIFA hired John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, to review and report on the organization’s business practices in December 2015. While the report sets out broad organizational human rights reforms, it does not specifically tackle the human rights crisis in Qatar, where thousands of World Cup workers are at risk of abuse.
“FIFA has had its head in the sand about the abuses in Qatar for more than five years, telling itself and the world that the Qatari authorities will fix things. That has not happened, and now only concerted FIFA action to prevent abuses on World Cup sites will save the soul of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrants’ Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The Ruggie report warns that FIFA has ‘a long road ahead’ from this ‘initial commitment to human rights’. But migrant workers in Qatar cannot wait. They need human rights protections now. While FIFA dawdles, they are at risk of a shocking catalogue of abuses, including forced labour. Gianni Infantino cannot hide behind this report. He needs to take concrete action right now to address abuses in Qatar.”
Clear set of actions already laid out for FIFA
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 labour.
The report, The ugly side of the beautiful game: Exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup site, called on FIFA to:
- Publish a human rights framework with concrete steps and periodic reporting to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is not delivered by an exploited workforce.
- Carry out its own independent regular inspections of labour conditions in Qatar, making investigation activities, findings and remedial actions public.
Publicly push 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.
- FIFA has yet to act on these recommendations.
Background: Litany of abuses exposed
Amnesty International’s report documented workers living in squalid and cramped accommodation, being threatened for complaining about their conditions, not being paid for several months. Employers also confiscated their passports, or denied them residence or exit permits, meaning that they could not leave the country and leaving them at risk of detention and deportation as “absconded” workers.
Amnesty International also uncovered evidence that the staff of one labour supply company used the threat of penalties to exact work from some migrants such as withholding pay, handing workers over to the police or stopping them from leaving Qatar. This amounts to forced labour under international law.