NGOs say FIFA should pay $440 million in reparations to migrant workers in Qatar

Organisations say there is still time to avoid a "Cup of shame"

AFP/MARWAN NAAMANI  -   Foreign workers at the construction site of the Al-Wakrah football stadium, one of the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Thousands of migrant workers in Qatar have not received financial compensation or adequate redress for the labour abuses they have suffered during the construction and maintenance of infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup, which begins in November.  

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Football Supporters Europe and Building and Wood Workers' International have therefore called on FIFA and the Qatari government to provide at least $440 million in reparations to migrant workers whose human rights have been compromised by the World Cup in Qatar. According to the organisations, "this would represent only a small percentage of FIFA's anticipated $6 billion revenue from the tournament and the $1.6 billion they have in reserves". 

AFP/ARIM JAAFAR - Workers at the construction site of the Al-Wakrah Stadium, a World Cup venue designed by the celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, about 15 kilometres outside the Qatari capital Doha.

The reparations include abuses such as "thousands of unexplained deaths and injuries, wage theft and exorbitant recruitment fees" committed since 2010, when the Arab country was awarded the World Cup. 

For its part, FIFA has said it was assessing these proposals and has launched "an unprecedented due diligence process" in conjunction with the Qatari Supreme Committee responsible for the tournament. This includes processes such as the one already underway to address the particular issue of recruitment fees that migrant workers often pay to agencies or intermediaries to secure employment. It has also stated in a publication that these NGO proposals "involve a wide range of public infrastructure that is neither FIFA nor World Cup specific".  

AFP/MARWAN NAAMANI - Foreign workers at the construction site of the Al-Wakrah football stadium.

The same argument has been made by Qatar, which says it has "worked tirelessly" with international workers' rights groups on projects for the World Cup, but that much of the construction is outside of the World Cup. "Significant improvements have been made in housing, health and safety conditions, grievance mechanisms and compensation for illegal recruitment," said a local organiser of the tournament. 

While Qatar has passed measures such as a minimum wage, working hours in extreme heat and the removal of rules limiting workers' mobility, non-governmental organisations are calling for many more measures to ensure full rights for workers and their families. 

AFP/KARIM ABOU MERHI - Construction work at the site of the future Education City Stadium in Doha.

These NGOs have therefore launched a global campaign to support this call with the hashtag #PayUpFIFA. In addition, several of them, such as Amnesty International, intend to publish a report "Predictable and Preventable" in which they set out how FIFA and Qatar can remedy 12 years of abuse.  

Also, Sacha Deshmukh, executive director of Amnesty International UK, called on England to support this idea. "We hope the FA, Gareth Southgate and the players will get behind this innovative scheme" because "international football can afford to do the right thing here. This is a comparatively small part of FIFA's huge prize money and would provide real redress for the serious human rights violations that underpin this tournament." 

This call for support for the initiative is described as "an innovative scheme" that would provide real compensation to workers in an attempt to leave a positive legacy for the tournament that comes into focus six months before the opening of the World Cup. 

AFP/KARIM JAAFAR - Workers at the construction site of the Al-Wakrah Stadium on the outskirts of the Qatari capital Doha.

A similar message came from Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch: "FIFA and Qatar have failed migrant workers, who are essential to the 2022 World Cup. But they can still compensate those severely injured and the families of the many who died. FIFA should immediately set aside the necessary funds to provide adequate reparations and avoid the legacy of a World Cup of shame".