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The Three Lions secured their place in next year’s finals with a 10-0 win against San Marino on Monday night, with Gareth Southgate saying he and his squad would “educate” themselves in the coming months. But they faced immediate calls from Amnesty International to use their platform in the build-up to the tournament.
The organisation insists migrant workers in Qatar still endure unacceptable conditions that put their lives in jeopardy as well as threaten their liberty.
England’s players are yet to decide upon what type of stand they may take having so publicly backed the fight against racism and discrimination in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Individual players have also demonstrated their social conscience with Marcus Rashford lobbying the Government to provide free school meals to underprivileged children, earning an MBE in the process, and Jordan Henderson helping to raise £4million for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
Holland, Norway and Germany have all made protests ahead of the World Cup and Amnesty International wants England to follow suit, calling on the FA, Southgate and his players to act.
The organisation’s UK CEO, Sacha Deshmukh, said: “The exploitation of Qatar’s massive migrant workforce has already cast a dark shadow over next year’s World Cup, and the FA ought to use the remaining year until kick-off to push for lasting labour reforms in Qatar.
“The FA is part of the UEFA Working Group on Workers’ Rights in Qatar and can press the Doha authorities over strengthening migrant worker protections, investigating worker deaths and helping to fashion a tournament with a genuinely positive legacy.
“It’s more important than ever that England’s coaching staff, players and supporters raise human rights issues ahead of next year’s kick-off.”
Southgate said: “I've been in conversations as part of an FA delegation on Qatar, trying to get a better understanding of the situation. I think it will obviously take the time to inform the players a bit more about what is going on.
“We have to be certain on who we should be speaking to and what issues are important, because it seems as is there are a lot. It is a very complicated situation for us. We have to go and work with people and represent the country in a foreign land and when you are doing that you have got to be 100 per cent sure of your facts.
“That's not easy because it's harder to work through what is current and what is historic. We have a responsibility to represent our country in the right way. There are clear cultural differences between the two nations.
“As a nation we do a lot of business with Qatar. I was reading about Rolls Royce, heavy investment from Qatar into green machinery. It is hugely complex but we will take the time to educate ourselves and if we feel there are areas we can highlight and help, we have always tried to do that and we will do that.”
Amnesty claim that despite a number of reforms in Qatar, working conditions for migrants remain a major problem as the state enters the final year of preparations for the World Cup.
A longstanding issue is the Kafala system, which allows individuals or companies to sponsor migrant workers and control their employment and immigration status.
Amnesty describe Qatar’s labour system as “exploitative,” claiming “abusive practices” have resurfaced despite promises of reform.
Despite laws passed last year to remove restrictions on migrants leaving the country or changing jobs, workers still complain of their human rights being violated. Amnesty has also raised concerns about the death of “thousands” of migrant workers due to unsafe working conditions.
Mark Dummett, Amnesty’s Global Issues Programme Director, said: “The clock is ticking but it’s not too late to turn the ink on paper into real action.
“Now is the time for the Qatari authorities to be bold and fully embrace their programme of labour reforms; any progress to date will be wasted if Qatar settles for weak implementation of policies and fails to hold abusers to account.
“Apparent complacency by the authorities is leaving thousands of workers at continued risk of exploitation by unscrupulous employers, with many unable to change jobs and facing wage theft. They have little hope of remedy, compensation or justice. After the World Cup, the fate of the workers who remain in Qatar will be even more uncertain.”
England defender Conor Coady revealed this week that the players would discuss the issues in Qatar going forward.
He said: “An incredible thing that comes out of this England squad is that people try to make a difference all the time. People are trying to use that platform. If there is any way players can help, I am sure we as part of the England setup will try to do that.”
Qatar are believed to have spent in the region of £5billion to stage the World Cup. It is still in the process of completing the stadia to host the event, while there have been recent concerns raised over its ability to accommodate all the fans expected to descend on the tournament.