DOHA: A European parliamentary delegation to Qatar is cautiously hopeful about promised changes in local laws and treatment of immigrant construction workers in the 2022 World Cup host state.

But it has insisted, as have international trade unions and world football federation FIFA, that promises of change had to be put into effect.

The visit followed a debate in the European Parliament in February which heard evidence from German Theo Zwanziger, on behalf of world football federation FIFA, based on a statement from the local World Cup organising committee.

Mario David, a Portuguese MEP, noted a willingness to engage in discussion by both senior members of the Qatar government and leaders of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.

David also noted, however, that the delegation considered the situation in Qatar to be “very serious” and that “the kafala system [of tied employment] raises huge questions” over “a misuse and mismanagement of this system.”

New laws

He said that, at every meeting, the delegation had been promised a “deep revision of the old system.” However the Qataris had to be seen to put their words into action.

David added: “We hope the new laws will be in place by the time the peak workers are in Qatar, around 60,000 people. It is not up to us to announce what happens but we have been told in the not too distant future this reform will take place.

“We can only encourage this to continue. This [World Cup] is going to be a unique opportunity to have the world meeting in Qatar.

Angelika Niebler, a German Christian Democrat MEP, stressed the importance of multinational construction companies maintaining the standard of workers conditions enforced in Europe.

Three tests

She said: “We do not want privileges. We want the European companies to treat workers here the same way they do in their own countries.”

Richard Howitt, a British Labour Party MEP, set out three tests for the Qataris “to see if they are genuine.”

He said: “We say there should abolishment of exit visa. We want people to be able to change their employer without being penalized.  We call for a change in sponsorship and recommend the government is the sponsor, not the employer.”