DOHA: Amnesty International has sought to maintain its pressure about Qatar on Gianni Infantino as his starts his first visit to the Gulf state in his two-month-old role as president of world football federation FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The latest salvo concerning widely-criticised labour laws was issued ahead of Infantino’s three-day visit to the 2022 World Cup host which starts today.
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Gulf Migrants Rights Researcher, said: “Gianni Infantino has a golden opportunity to show that under his presidency FIFA will promote human rights.
“Without robust engagement starting right now, every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 is likely to directly encounter migrant workers – in hotels, sports venues, shops – whose human rights have been abused.
“It is essential that FIFA publicly calls on Qatar to tackle the systematic exploitation and abuse of World Cup workers, largely driven by the sponsorship system in Qatari law that leaves workers at the mercy of their employers.
“Amnesty International has spoken to more than 200 workers and every single one of them reported abuse of one kind or another, and that was at just one stadium and its surrounding facilities. What happens when work on seven brand new stadiums peaks in 2017?”
Qadri criticised Infantino’s initial comments about the various Qatar issues which have engaged human rights pressure groups and international trade unions.
He said: “So far Gianni Infantino’s response to revelations of abuse on Khalifa stadium in Doha has been business as usual for FIFA: heavy on PR, light on tangible reform.
“FIFA laid the foundations for a World Cup built on abuse with five years of laissez-faire response to human rights in Qatar. If Infantino fails to confront the issue during this visit, in the face of well-documented abuses, he will erect the scaffolding for continuing exploitation.”
Last month Amnesty published a report exposing abuse of construction workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, which will host a World Cup semi-final in 2022.
It considered FIFA’s response as “shockingly indifferent to the abuses, which in some cases amounted to forced labour.”
Amnesty added: “The main contractors named in the report were unaware of abusive companies operating on their worksites. Some of the companies also claimed to be ignorant of the fact that their workers had paid huge fees to work in Qatar and were receiving lower wages than initially promised.”
The report urged FIFA to call on the Qatari authorities to publish a timetable for systematic reform ahead of an expected mid-2017 peak in World Cup construction, when the number of World Cup stadium workers is expected to hit 36,000.
Last week Harvard professor John Ruggie published a FIFA-commissioned report on the organisation’s business practices. While the report set out broad organisational human rights measures, it does not specifically tackle the human rights crisis in Qatar.