To Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA; Dr Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Minister for Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs in Qatar:
We are writing on International Migrants Day as a group of human rights advocates and over 100,000 supporters around the world urging Qatari authorities and FIFA to commit to protecting migrant workers from exploitation and remedy human rights abuses endured as a result of the 2022 World Cup.
- Set up a dedicated compensation fund for migrant workers and the families of those who have died. This amount should at least be equivalent to the US$440 million prize money provided to teams participating in the 2022 World Cup that can be invested in funds to compensate workers, and initiatives to improve workers’ protections in light of the extensive abuses recorded amongst migrant workers in Qatar.
- Ensure effective implementation of legal reforms to meaningfully protect migrant workers from exploitation, abuse, and forced labor.
- Introduce and enforce penalties on employers where the practice of contract substitution takes place, which 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.
The Qatar World Cup tournament has been marred by a constant stream of forced labor allegations and the exploitation of Qatar’s low-paid migrant workforce. As the tournament’s final takes place this Sunday on International Migrants Day, we must not forget the exploitation endured by migrant workers that have made this tournament possible.
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 including debt bondage, wage theft, being prevented from changing employers, being forced to work excessive hours, and having identity documents withheld by unscrupulous employers.
Workers report being forced to work in the blistering heat without safety precautions or pay. Many others’ experiences have included having their wages withheld, being denied exit visas, being housed in dirty, unsafe conditions, and being forced to work long hours with little rest despite the high heat. Reports from workers indicate that they remain effectively tied to their employers despite legislative reforms made to the kafala system by the Qatari government.
Though we were pleased to see that the Qatari government had introduced new laws to reform the kafala system, full implementation is still lacking. As the 2022 World Cup draws to a close, now is the time for FIFA and the Qatari government to implement a dedicated support fund, and meaningfully implement reforms to protect workers’ rights and freedom.
Workers are systematically blocked from exercising their rights through being “denied the fundamental right to associate, subjected to intensive surveillance and employer control, and fear retaliation-including employer-instigated deportation” according to the human rights group, Equidem.
We are urging FIFA to meet its responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to respect human rights and seek to mitigate and remedy rights abuses through a dedicated fund for migrant workers, and we urge Qatar to stringently implement reforms to the kafala system and hold exploitative employers accountable.
Human Rights Watch notes that “A remedy fund would strengthen existing compensation schemes and reach more workers, including those still seeking wages stolen from them. It would also reach the families of workers who died in circumstances Qatari authorities never investigated, allowing families who lost a provider to feed themselves and send their children to school.”
On International Migrants Day we urge you to take action and stand on the side of human rights.
Freedom United, representing 107,560 supporters
Be Slavery Free