At a press conference held on May 2, when asked by the host and MSNBC reporter if FIFA would use its World Cup profits to make “any sort of commitment” to help the families of workers who have died in Qatar, FIFA president Gianni Infantino stated that migrant workers gain “dignity and pride” from their hard work.
Infantino avoided the question and said: “When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride. It’s not charity. You don’t make charity. You don’t give something to somebody and say, ‘Stay where you are. I give you something and I feel good.'”
Deaths linked to the World Cup in Qatar
According to a special report published by the Guardian in February 2021, more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have died due to unsafe working conditions since Qatar began preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010.
When the journalist insisted on these devastating figures, Infantino not only did not refute them but also suggested that only “three people” have died on stadium construction sites. “Now 6,000 might have died in other works and so on,” he said. “And of course FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world. But thanks to FIFA, thanks to football we have been able to address the status of all the 1.5 million workers working in Qatar.”
He later apologized for the remarks, saying they were “misinterpreted and taken out of context.”
How does the kafala system continue to impact workers in the country?
More than 90% of Qatar’s workers are foreign workers brought into the country under kafala, a “sponsorship” system that jeopardizes the basic human rights of migrant workers and perpetuates conditions amounting to forced labor and modern slavery.
In 2020 the Emir of Qatar took promising steps toward dismantling the abusive kafala system by passing two new laws that abolished restrictions on migrant workers changing jobs without their employer’s permission. He also introduced a minimum monthly salary of 1,000 Qatari riyal (274 USD) and gave basic living allowances to some workers.
However, the changes made to date are insufficient to protect migrant workers. We are urging the Qatari government to implement the following measures and ensure their implementation means that in practice, low-paid migrant workers are empowered to demand their rights:
- Introduce and enforce penalties on employers where the practice of contract substitution takes place, that forces workers to accept lower wages on arrival into Qatar.
- Ensure migrant workers’ passports are returned, and that workers hold their own passports and are given their worker IDs, through more effective enforcement and implementation of current laws targeting employers.
- Remove impediments to workers leaving the country, and changing employers including any employer objections to exit visas.
Last week Freedom United held a special event with migrant workers’ rights activist and blogger Malcolm Bidali and human rights and migrant workers’ rights expert Nicholas McGeehan to explore what still needs to change to ensure migrant workers are better protected from modern slavery.
Hear directly from them and from the fantastic Freedom United community who took part in the conversation to learn more about what we can do to keep holding the Qatar government, and FIFA, accountable.
Everyone can be part of the solution to reform the labor system of Qatar. Sign the petition today.