Complaint filed against Saudia Arabia amid FIFA World Cup

Workers’ complaint filed against Saudia Arabia amid FIFA World Cup bid

  • Published on
    June 5, 2024
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    Forced Labor
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AP News reports that a coalition of trade unions has lodged a formal complaint against Saudi Arabia, accusing the nation of severe human rights abuses. The complaint, submitted to the International Labor Organization (ILO), alleges mistreatment and wage theft affecting over 21,000 migrant workers over the past decade. This comes as FIFA prepares to finalize Saudi Arabia as the host of the 2034 World Cup.

Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the global union behind the complaint, called on the ILO to investigate the alleged abuses. BWI’s statement highlights the exploitative conditions faced by the country’s vast migrant workforce, describing their situation as akin to forced labor. The union detailed allegations of illegal recruitment fees, withholding of wages and passports, restrictions on job mobility, and instances of physical and sexual violence, particularly targeting female and domestic workers.

According to the BWI, “forced labor indicators are rampant.” Feedback from 200 workers revealed debt bondage of 85% of respondents, retention of passports and identity documents at 65%, restrictions on terminating and exiting employment contracts freely at 63%, and withholding of wages at 46%.

FIFA failed Qatar – will they fail the next FIFA host country?

The current situation echoes a similar complaint filed a decade ago against Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup. At the time, Qatar faced intense scrutiny, including from the Freedom United community for its labor practices, including the controversial kafala system. Under international pressure, Qatar collaborated with the ILO and reformed some of its labor system – at least on paper. Qatar still failed to adequately address labor abuses suffered by migrant workers who built World Cup stadiums and other infrastructure.

Although FIFA provisionally confirmed Saudi Arabia as the 2034 World Cup host last October, the official bid is due in July. FIFA requires bidders to adhere to an independent human rights assessment, ensuring the tournament does not negatively impact recognized labor rights. Saudi Arabia’s bid includes ambitious plans, such as constructing up to 10 new stadiums, including a futuristic 45,000-seat venue near Riyadh, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 project – all of which will require an extensive work force.

“A flashing alarm”

Critics argue that Saudi Arabia’s heavy investment in hosting international events, from the World Cup to the 2029 Asian Winter Games and the 2030 World Expo, is a form of “sportswashing” intended to distract from its human rights record.

The complaint, supported by Amnesty International, Equidem, FairSquare, and Human Rights Watch, was filed during the ILO’s annual conference in Geneva. Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, emphasized the urgency of the situation, describing the BWI filing as “a flashing alarm for businesses and organizations like FIFA planning massive events in Saudi Arabia.”

The Freedom United community has been urgently calling on Qatari authorities and FIFA to commit to protecting migrant workers from exploitation and remedy human rights abuses endured as a result of the tournament.

The game is over but the fight continues. Keep the momentum for justice going by taking action today.


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Juan Bravo Faust
Juan Bravo Faust
6 days ago

I don’t believe Saudi Arabia is the best candidate to hold the 2034 World Soccer Cup. The continue abuse of Human Rights in this country are rampant. Trying to obtain a face wash through an international event, doesn’t suit them. I propose a TOTAL BAN of any event to be disputed in Saudi Arabia. The same goes for any other country that doesn’t respect the Human Rights and dignity of its working class.

Dylan Thomas Craig
Dylan Thomas Craig
6 days ago

I‘m starting to wonder if mankind has lost the ability to learn from mistakes?
After Sotschi and Katar now Saudi Arabia uses forced labour and human rights violations to show of as a sportsevent nation? And corrupt FIFA is idly standing by?
Well I stopped watching these events since I saw a documentary about how foreign workers were treated in Sotschi…
And I also promoted boycotting these events…
But hey, I guess money is more important.

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