Given the recent allegations of human rights abuse leveled against Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure projects, it is hardly surprising that activist groups are stepping up their protests.
On Wednesday, a group calling themselves Qataris Behind Bars placed billboards in FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s hometown of Brig, demanding that the world football body compensate migrant workers for their alleged abuses.
The messages on the billboards were highly critical of both Infantino and Qatar’s ruling family. “Infantino: your family were migrants,” “Thousands like them were victims of this World Cup,” and “Compensate them now.”
These powerful messages indicate the larger issue at hand – that FIFA is not compensating or caring for the workers who helped make the World Cup possible. This campaign is important because it brings attention to a serious problem and calls for action from FIFA.
It is worth noting that many of these workers are migrant laborers, often coming from impoverished countries. They are promised good wages and working conditions by recruiters but find themselves in dangerous and exploitative situations.
Human rights groups have documented cases of widespread exploitation and abuse suffered by these laborers, who are not protected by Qatari labor laws. For example, construction workers building venues for the World Cup faced hazardous conditions without proper safety gear, leading to numerous deaths.
Campaigners from Avaaz staged a protest against FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland – Infantino’s hometown. The demonstration included an actor dressed up as Infantino holding a replica World Cup trophy holding the slogan.
Although FIFA did not directly address the protest, they did point to Infantino’s praise of a fund established by Qatar in 2018 that has paid out $350 million to workers in incidents primarily relating to late or non-payment of wages.
At least 6,500 migrant workers have perished in Qatar since it acquired World Cup hosting rights in 2010. This was published by The Guardian newspaper last year.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has questioned the fatalities reported among migrant workers involved in preparations for the World Cup in Qatar 2022. The tournament organizers have said there had been three work-related fatalities and 34 non-work-related deaths.
There is no question that migrant workers in Qatar have faced human rights abuses, with Amnesty International and other groups calling on FIFA to set aside $440 million to compensate them.
While it is unclear how much of this money would reach the workers, any attempt to redress the wrongs inflicted upon these vulnerable people would be welcome.
FIFA has stated that it was evaluating Amnesty’s request and putting into practice an “unprecedented due diligence process in relation to the protection of workers involved.
The European Union parliament’s passage of a resolution last month requesting FIFA to help apologize to the families of migrant workers killed or subjected to rights breaches while working on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is a big deal.