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Amnesty International urges FIFA to compensate Qatar’s World Cup workers

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has urged FIFA, football’s global governing body, to fund a major compensation programme for “abused” migrant workers ahead of the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Amnesty International has called on FIFA to earmark at least $440m (£353m/€417m) – the amount it hands out in prize money at the World Cup – to provide remedy for the “hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses” in Qatar during preparations for the World Cup, which will take place from November 21 to December 18.

In a new report published today (Thursday), Amnesty International said that a comprehensive programme is needed to provide remedy for abuses related to the World Cup.

Amnesty International, alongside a coalition of human rights organisations, unions and fan groups, has also written an open letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, urging him to work with the Qatar government, trade unions, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and others to set aside appropriate financial resources for affected workers.

Amnesty International said the programme is necessary to remedy the “litany of abuses” committed since 2010, when FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar “without requiring any improvement in labour protections”.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said: “Given the history of human rights abuses in the country, FIFA knew – or should have known – the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar. Despite this, there was not a single mention of workers or human rights in its evaluation of the Qatari bid and no conditions were put in place on labour protections. FIFA has since done far too little to prevent or mitigate those risks.

“Providing compensation to workers who gave so much to make the tournament happen, and taking steps to make sure such abuses never happen again, could represent a major turning point in FIFA’s commitment to respect human rights.

“By turning a blind eye to foreseeable human rights abuses and failing to stop them, FIFA indisputably contributed to the widespread abuse of migrant workers involved in World Cup-related projects in Qatar, far beyond the stadiums and official hotels.”

Amnesty International said that $440m is likely to be the “minimum necessary” to cover compensation costs and support initiatives to protect workers’ rights in the future. The organisation added that the total sum for reimbursing unpaid workers, recruitment fees paid by workers, and compensation for injuries and deaths could end up being higher.

When asked for comment by the AFP news agency, FIFA said it was “assessing” the programme proposed by Amnesty.

A spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee, which is organising the tournament, added: “Significant improvements have been made across accommodation standards, health and safety regulations, grievance mechanisms, healthcare provision, and reimbursements of illegal recruitment fees to workers.”

Image: Ben Sutherland/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size