Amid growing pressure ahead of the World Cup on November 20, this week the Qatari labor minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri refused to support a compensation fund for exploited migrant workers and the families of those workers who have died.
Migrant worker concerns dismissed
We are disappointed that Al Marri dismissed the Pay Up FIFA campaign as a “publicity stunt”, undermining the legitimate and serious concerns from workers, civil society, football fans, Football Associations, and politicians regarding the human rights abuses of migrant workers in the country.
Al Marri’s reasoning for rejecting the compensation fund put forward by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, referred to the existing compensation mechanisms that exist for migrant workers. However, many migrant workers are unable to access these schemes, whether it is because they have already returned to their country of origin or because access to these schemes is so limited.
Fund needed due to limited implementation of reforms
Though the Qatari government has taken action to pass a host of reforms in the past four years, the reality is that significant barriers remain for migrant workers to leave exploitative work. Some workers are unaware of the recent reforms while others are unsure of their rights under Qatari law. While mechanisms exist for workers to report disputes, this can be very time consuming, and can result in retaliation against workers. In practice, migrant workers continue to report being threatened with deportation from employers if they want to leave their job with little being done to hold employers accountable.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said:
“While the money paid out this year is undoubtedly important, Qatar’s Minister saying that their door is open to workers who have suffered abuses is insufficient and a much more proactive approach is needed to ensure that justice is within reach for everyone. Qatar must expand its existing compensation funds or establish a new one – no one is saying it is easy, but if the will is there, a solution could be found that would transform the lives of so many workers.”
FIFA must take action
Freedom United is urgently calling on FIFA to set up a compensation fund of at least $440 million, equivalent to the tournament’s prize money. We welcome the French Football Federation and U.S. Soccer who in recent weeks have publicly supported calls on FIFA to compensate workers.
When the 2022 World Cup is over, there will be less eyes on Qatar and less urgency for the Qatar government to implement these crucial reforms, protect workers rights and freedom. We cannot let that happen. It is absolutely vital that we keep up the pressure after the last whistle blows.