Conditions for migrant workers in Qatar are a recipe for a human rights disaster, according to Amnesty International, as the Gulf nation continues its preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
“Too little has been done to address rampant migrant labor abuse. Qatar’s persistent labor reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster,” Mustafa Qadri, Gulf migrant rights researcher at Amnesty International, said.
Qatar is set to be the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup, but preparations for the tournament have been overshadowed by controversy over the treament of thousands of migrant labiourers working on the infrastructure for the finals.
“Unless action is taken – and soon – then every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 should ask themselves how they can be sure they are not benefiting from the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers,” Qadri said.
“Fifa has played its part in this sorry performance. It knew there were labor rights issues in Qatar. It must work closely with the Qatari authorities and business partners to ensure the World Cup is not built on exploitation.”
On Tuesday, Amnesty International said Qatar has “seriously failed” to address five of its nine “fundamental” concerns relating to the labor rights of migrant workers it highlighted in a report seven months ago.
These include the issue of paying wages on time, an increase in the country’s labour inspection force and a reform of the “kafala” system, which legally binds workers to their employer, and has been compared to a modern form of slavery.
“The reforms proposed by the government fail to tackle the central issues that leave so many workers at the mercy of employers, yet even these changes have been delayed,” Qadri said.
“Under the kafala system it is all too easy for an unscrupulous employer to get away with the late payment of salaries, housing workers in squalid and cramped housing, or threatening workers who complain about their conditions. That is why kafala requires a major overhaul, not just tinkering at the edges,” Qadri said.
Qadri called on Fifa to address the issue of human rights abuses in Qatar, saying that thus far it had merely paid lip service to the problem.
“FIFA has bent over backwards to make a Qatar World Cup work, even taking the unprecedented step of moving the tournament from summer to winter,” Qadri said. “But apart from occasional public statements the organization has not set any clear, concrete agenda for how it will push Qatar to ensure migrant workers’ rights are respected.
“FIFA may be moving to new leadership in 2016, but it will not be able to get past its current challenges until it makes it clear that Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup is contingent on respect for human rights.”