DOHA: A majority of football fans from 15 countries would support FIFA compensating migrant workers in Qatar for human rights violations during the country’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup, a poll commissioned by Amnesty International and released on Thursday showed.
Qatar has repeatedly faced criticism over conditions for migrant workers, but insists it has made major improvements in recent years.
A YouGov survey of more than 17,000 fans from 15 countries — 10 of them European — commissioned by Amnesty showed that 73% of respondents would support the proposal and 10% opposed it.
Out of those who said they were likely to watch at least one game, 84 percent backed the proposal.
More than two-thirds of respondents (67%) also said their national Football Associations should speak out publicly about the human rights issues surrounding the World Cup in Qatar as well as call for compensation for migrant workers.
“Across the globe, people are united in their desire to see FIFA step up and make amends for the suffering endured by migrant workers in Qatar,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said in a statement.
“The past cannot be undone, but a compensation programme is a clear and simple way that FIFA and Qatar can provide at least some measure of redress to the hundreds of thousands of workers who made this tournament possible.
“There is still time for FIFA to do the right thing,” Cockburn added calling on it “to set up a remediation programme... before the tournament kicks off” on November 20. “Supporters don’t want a World Cup that’s indelibly tainted by human rights abuses.”
FIFA said a wide range of measures had been implemented in recent years to improve protection for workers in Qatar.
“FIFA takes note of the poll conducted on behalf of Amnesty International, featuring respondents from 10 countries in Europe and five countries from the rest of the world,” the governing body said in a statement.
“Respondents may not be fully aware of the measures implemented in recent years by FIFA and its partners in Qatar to protect workers involved in the delivery of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
“Workers have been compensated in various forms where companies failed to uphold the workers’ welfare standards. FIFA will continue its efforts to enable remediation for workers who may have been adversely impacted in relation to FIFA World Cup-related work.”
In May, Amnesty and other rights groups called on FIFA to set aside $440 million to compensate migrant workers in Qatar for human rights abuses.
FIFA had said in May it was assessing Amnesty’s proposition and had already compensated a number of workers, who had received $22.6 million as of December, 2021.
The government of Qatar has said that its labour system is still a work in progress, but denied a 2021 Amnesty report that thousands of migrant workers were still being exploited.
The Qatari government has highlighted major reforms it has introduced, including a minimum wage, dismantling a scheme that gave employers stringent rights over labourers, and imposing stricter rules on working in the summer heat.
In an interview with French magazine Le Point, Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said he was proud of the measures the emirate had taken to safeguard workers’ welfare.
“We understood that we had a problem with work on construction sites and we took strong measures in record time,” the emir said in only his third interview since he took the throne in 2013.
“We have changed the law and we are punishing anybody who abuses an employee. We have opened our doors to non-governmental organisations and we are cooperating with them. We are proud of it. “
Amnesty also called on FIFA and Qatar to establish a remediation programme to reimburse unpaid wages, recruitment fees paid by hundreds of thousands of workers and compensation for injuries and deaths.
“The programme should be established, and an initial meeting held between key stakeholders, before the tournament kicks off on 20 November 2022,” Amnesty said, adding that workers and trade unions should be involved in the programme.
“The programme should also support initiatives to protect workers’ rights in the future.”
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022