Fifa should pay £355m to abused migrant workers in Qatar, Amnesty International says

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Fifa should pay £355m to abused migrant workers in Qatar, Amnesty International says - REUTERS
Fifa should pay £355m to abused migrant workers in Qatar, Amnesty International says - REUTERS

Fifa should match the prize money for this year’s World Cup with compensation of more than £350 million to victims of migrant worker abuses in Qatar, a coalition including Amnesty International has said.

England’s players, manager Gareth Southgate and the Football Association have been urged to support the demand from organisations also featuring Human Rights Watch, Football Supporters Europe and trade union the Building and Wood Workers’ International.

In a letter to Fifa president Gianni Infantino, the coalition called for him to agree a donation of “not less than” $440 million (about £355m) to those who have been injured working on infrastructure projects in Qatar since it was awarded the World Cup in 2010, workers who have had pay withheld or charged onerous recruitment fees, and the families of those to have died helping prepare the country to stage the tournament.

The letter to Infantino states: “When Fifa awarded the tournament to Qatar, it knew or should have known the risks this would pose to migrant workers’ rights given the country’s poor human rights record and the ban on trade unions.

“In awarding the 2022 World Cup without imposing any conditions to avoid foreseeable labour rights abuses and subsequently failing to take timely and effective preventive measures in this regard, Fifa contributed to the widespread abuse of migrant workers on World Cup-related projects that followed.

“Until all workers are compensated and harms remediated, the tournament cannot be truly celebrated.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International’s UK chief executive, added: “We hope the FA and Gareth Southgate and the players will back this innovative scheme to secure much-needed compensation for long-suffering workers’ families.

“Nothing can bring dead workers back to life or restore the dignity of those who were trapped in conditions amounting to modern-day slavery during Qatar’s World Cup building boom, but a Fifa workers’ fund would still be an important move.”

Fifa responded to the letter by stating it and the tournament organisers, Qatar’s Supreme Committee, had already engaged in paying compensation.

“As a consequence of the Workers’ Welfare initiatives by the tournament organisers, countless workers have received remediation in various forms, including the payment of outstanding wages, the repayment of recruitment fees through the Supreme Committee’s universal reimbursement scheme and other forms of compensation.

“As part of the Supreme Committee’s effort to ensure repayment of recruitment fees, for example, workers have received payments of a total of $22.6 million as of December 2021, with an additional $5.7 million committed by contractors. Other forms of remediation include the strengthening of company practice to ensure non-repetition, or punitive measures imposed by the tournament organisers or the Ministry of Labour.”

The FA declined to comment on the specific demand for Fifa to match World Cup prize money with compensation.

The letter to Fifa coincided with a new Amnesty report the latter said justified the compensation call.

Qatar’s Ministry of Labour responded by stating it had engaged with human rights organisations “in good faith” in the past decade.

“The new report undermines much of the goodwill that has been generated,” it said. “Engagement will always yield better results than condemnation, especially when they are unreasonably demanded.”

Saying the government had established a fund to provide payments owed to workers that had disbursed £110 million in the last two years, it added: “Qatar’s labour reforms will continue to take place at a pace that ensures holistic and lasting change. Qatar is proud of the reforms it has introduced. What we have achieved in a few years took many decades to achieve in other parts of the world.”

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