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SBD Global/November 18, 2013/International Football

'Damning' Amnesty Int'l Report Criticizes FIFA, Qatar For World Cup Labor Conditions

A migrant laborer works at a construction site in Doha, Qatar on Oct. 3.
A "damning Amnesty report has raised fresh fears about the exploitation of the migrant workers" building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, amid "a rising toll of death, disease and misery," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The report claims that some migrant workers "are victims of forced labour, a modern form of slavery, and treated appallingly by subcontractors employed by leading construction companies in a sector rife with abuse." The report, based on two recent investigations in Qatar and scores of interviews, found workers "living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation exposed to sewage and sometimes without running water." It found that many workers, "faced with mounting debts and unable to return home, have suffered 'severe psychological distress,' with some driven to the brink of suicide." The report added that discrimination "is common." One manager referred to workers as "the animals" (GUARDIAN, 11/17). Amnesty Int'l Secretary General Salil Shetty said, "Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup." Shetty added, "FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup" (AP, 11/17).

THE REPORT: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported Amnesty "is the latest organisation to focus on treatment of migrant workers in Qatar," following "similarly scathing reports" by the London Guardian newspaper and the Int'l Trade Union Confederation. Amnesty said that it "had carried out interviews with around 210 migrant workers in the construction industry during two visits to the country" in Oct. '12 and March '13. It "also held meetings with 22 companies involved in construction projects and met government representatives on more than a dozen occasions." The report said abuses included "non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation" (REUTERS, 11/17).

THE BLAME GAME: In London, Ben Rumsby wrote the report "places most of the blame for the scandal at the feet of exploitative employers and the Qatari government, urging it to reform its draconian labour laws and carry out more effective monitoring of worker welfare in the country." But it also "hits out at Fifa and the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee" for their attitude to a “crisis” which caused World Cup Organizing Committee Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi to state the World Cup will not be built upon “the blood of innocents.” Amnesty welcomed FIFA’s public recognition of the importance of the rights of migrant workers, but "criticised football’s world governing body for 'its repeated assertions that it is not responsible and cannot change things' and President Sepp Blatter’s claim that there was “plenty of time” before '22 to solve the problem. It claimed FIFA’s suggestion that its "main focus" was on the 2014 and 2018 World Cups "fails to recognise that abuses are happening already" (TELEGRAPH, 11/17).
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