KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter will tell the new Emir of Qatar, face to face, of the world football federation’s anxieties over workers conditions in the Gulf state.
Years of campaigning by the International Trade Union Confederation against ‘modern-day slavery’ finally exploded into public awareness when the issue was taken up by the media worldwide and, notably, The Guardian.
Just about every concerned organisation has pressed FIFA to use its World Cup lever to press the Qataris into overhauling the notorious kafala system under which migrant workers, notably now from Nepal, are employed.
Blatter, after a meeting of the FIFA executive committee, acknowledged: “We have received statements of concern from workers organisations and others such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International.
“Naturally I have expressed – and continue to express – all my sympathy and regrets for everything that happens in any country when there are deaths on construction sites and especially when there are deaths on construction sites related to a World Cup.
“This can also include not only stadia but other areas of work.”
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee had tried to reassure FIFA last week with a letter of good intent about workers’ welfare and Blatter noted that European companies were among those who bore responsibility for employees’ care.
However he added: “Though it is not FIFA’s primary responsibility we cannot turn a blind eye and say it does not affect us.
“The executive committee has requested a courtesy visit to Qatar and I will meet the new Emir, Sheikh Tamim, both to confirm the World Cup 2022 but also touch on this issue which concerns many people in the world of the working conditions in that country.
“We are not the ones that can change it . . . but I bring to their attention the situation we are facing with all the letters and demands we are receiving but which is also their responsibility.
“We cannot assume the duty of supervising security on building sites but we are not indifferent to eveything that has happened and it does concern us.”