FIFA has been accused of failing to adhere to its own human rights commitments after it chose not to create a remedy fund for migrant workers injured or killed in Qatar.
An umbrella group comprising, among others, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch has spoken out as the World Cup enters its final stages in Doha. It says plans announced by Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, to create a legacy fund that “helps people most in need all across the world” falls short of Fifa’s obligations, and undercuts assurances made before the tournament.
“Fifa can still do the right thing by channelling the legacy fund towards workers and their families, supporting a genuinely independent workers’ centre and working with Qatar to ensure that every worker can access the compensation that they deserve,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice.
“By changing course, Fifa could make a lasting difference to the lives of the true heroes behind this World Cup. Refusing to do so would be a terrible indictment on its commitment to workers’ rights.”
In 2017 Fifa published its first human rights policy after criticism over the decision to award Qatar the World Cup. At its heart was a commitment to protecting human rights and remedying failures when they occurred, in accordance with the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
To date, however, Fifa has made no express promise to remedy workers hurt or killed during the years of construction leading to the World Cup. A Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund run by the Qatari government claims to have paid out $350m to workers, but public evidence suggests it has so far been used to reimburse workers who have had wages stolen. Fifa’s obligations exist above and beyond any government action.
NGOs and charities, like European Football Associations who hoped to extract some form of legacy commitment, had extensive meetings with Fifa before the tournament and received encouragement only to be blindsided by a series of vague commitments in Infantino’s bizarre speech that launched the tournament last month. Sources suggest there have been no further meetings since that date.
Nick McGeehan, the founding director of FairSquare, another member of the umbrella group, denounced Fifa’s actions. “Instead of ensuring protection of migrant workers who built and delivered the World Cup infrastructure in Qatar, Fifa has benefited from their exploitation and parroted Qatari authorities’ talking points, showing their complicity to all the misleading claims and deflections on abuses of migrant workers,” he said.
“Fifa has tuned out genuine demands for remedy for migrant workers, including from the football industry, and ignored evidence of widespread uncompensated abuses and the inadequacies of the current compensation systems in Qatar.”
Fifa has been approached for comment. It has previously said it would publish details of the finances of the legacy fund once the World Cup has finished “in keeping with previous tournaments”.
By Paul MacInnes, The Guardian