Uzra Zeya, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights has raised concerns this week over the risk of exploitation facing migrant workers in Qatar.
“The World Cup presents a challenge in terms of the increased likelihood or possibilities to exploit vulnerable migrant workers and it’s all the more important to enforce the laws in place and to see more efforts to prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking,” she said.
Reforms alone aren’t enough
In 2020, the Emir of Qatar abolished restrictions on migrant workers changing jobs without their employer’s permission and introduced a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal, in addition to giving basic living allowances for some workers. Previously, migrant workers required a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from their employer to demonstrate they had their employers’ permission to change jobs. Furthermore, a Wage Protection System was announced to ensure migrant workers’ are receiving their wages from employers.
Though Qatar has passed a host of reforms over the past few years, implementation has been lacking with migrant workers continuing to report exploitation. Zeya said, ”If fully implemented, they would really represent Qatar assuming a great leadership role regionally,”
Qatar has made “significant efforts” towards combating human trafficking but does not meet the U.S. government’s minimum requirements for the elimination of human trafficking, according to the State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons report.
The human cost of the World Cup
Thousands of migrant workers involved in construction, hospitality and other key areas of infrastructure required for the World Cup to take place in Qatar have suffered abuses amounting forced labor, including debt bondage, wage theft, being prevented from changing employers, forced to work excessive hours, and having identity documents withheld by unscrupulous employers.
But it’s not just Qatari authorities who have a responsibility to ensure migrant workers are protected from exploitation.
Compensation for workers now!
As the world’s football governing body that stands to make billions of dollars from this tournament, FIFA has an important role to play in compensating workers for the conditions they have been forced to endure.
That’s why we’re calling on FIFA to set aside at least $440 million – equivalent to the prize money for teams participating in the tournament – for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses over the course of the past twelve years in preparation for the World Cup.