In exactly one month today, host nation Qatar will play Ecuador in the opening game of the soccer World Cup 2022. Eyes have been on shocking conditions migrant workers endure in the Gulf state, pressuring the authorities to strengthen protections.
However in a new report, Amnesty International says human rights abuses “persist on a significant scale” and that “the job of protecting migrant workers is only half done”.
Freedom United began campaigning several years ago, concerned by the appalling conditions faced by migrant workers in Qatar, a reality that is replicated in many neighboring states, where racism towards foreign Black and brown workers alongside the restrictive immigration system, known as kafala, creates a toxic mix of disregard for protections of rights for migrant workers. During preparations for the World Cup, Qatar’s population surged as low income migrant workers were brought in.
Campaigning has made a difference with new laws including a minimum wage for workers, a pay security system intended to ensure that workers are paid, and greater freedom to change jobs or leave the country.
“Although Qatar has made important strides on labour rights over the past five years, it’s abundantly clear that there is a great distance still to go.
“With the World Cup looming, the job of protecting migrant workers from exploitation is only half done, while that of compensating those who have suffered abuses has barely started.”
“Progress must not grind to a halt once the World Cup roadshow leaves Doha. Turning a blind eye to the abuses suffered by thousands of migrant workers over the years flies in the face of their respective international obligations and responsibilities.”
Reports of exploitation continue
Amnesty’s report documents excessive overtime and a lack of time off with some workers expected to complete 18 hour shifts without a regular weekly day off. Their research also finds that despite legislative change to reform the kafala system, many workers are still having their wages withheld.
The World Cup was postponed several years ago to November from its usual date of June and July after concerns were raised about the impact of the extreme summer heat on players. However similar concerns were ignored for migrant workers; Amnesty argues that there has been insufficient research into its contribution towards the thousands of deaths of migrants working in construction.
Football Associations support compensation
Freedom United is calling on Football Associations to publicly support a compensation fund for migrant workers, equivalent to the prize money of $440 million. The Guardian reports that the United States Soccer Federation added its name to our call this week, joining other Associations in support, but Fifa and World Cup organizers have yet to confirm their commitment.
Send a message to Football Associations today to ensure that migrant workers are not left without help after the competition is over.