FIFA Congress: letter demands action on Qatar workers' compensation
World football body meets in Rwanda this week with FAs set to demand compensation for migrant workers abused in Qatar
Amnesty and Avaaz have handed over more than one million signatures from 190 countries and football shirts in blue and yellow workwear colours
‘The time has come for FIFA to properly address its responsibilities’ - Steve Cockburn
FIFA has been handed a letter supported by over one million petition signatures - and custom-designed “worker football shirts” - demanding that FIFA provide compensation to migrant workers who suffered horrific human rights abuses while working on the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.
The items were delivered to FIFA ahead of the football body’s annual congress later this week (16 March) in Rwanda where it’s expected to come under pressure from some of its own members to remedy human rights abuses. The one million signatures were collected by Amnesty International and Avaaz in 190 countries.
The specially-designed shirts, which were presented at FIFA’s official museum in Zurich, echo the blue workwear and yellow vests worn by many of the migrant workers who suffered abuses building stadiums and infrastructure.
On the eve of the tournament last November, FIFA pledged to establish a legacy fund but did not commit to using it to provide support directly to workers. To date, FIFA has provided no further details about how it will operate this fund.
In its letter to FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino, Amnesty and Avaaz urge him to use the legacy fund to compensate abused workers or their families directly, and to work with Qatar to ensure the country’s own compensation scheme can be accessed by workers who’ve left the country, as well as by the families of workers who died.
The Norwegian FA, supported by several other national associations, has tabled a discussion at the annual meeting proposing that FIFA ensures “full implementation of its human rights commitments, including remediation”, calling on the organisation to “assess whether it has fulfilled its responsibility to remedy related to the 2022 World Cup, including an investigation into World Cup-related deaths and injuries”.
In December, Gianni Infantino announced that FIFA had made more than $7 billion from the 2022 “World Cup cycle”, around has $1 billion more than had been expected.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said:
“This meeting offers another opportunity for FIFA to make amends and establish a firm plan and timetable to directly and quickly recompense workers and their families who suffered shocking human rights abuses to deliver a World Cup that was built on their sacrifice.
“By presenting the football shirts at the FIFA museum in Zurich we are demanding that the organisation recognises the sacrifice of migrant workers, and that their outstanding demands for compensation are met.
“Workers suffered horrific abuses to help deliver a World Cup tournament that made billions of dollars for FIFA yet brought a human cost of indebted families and workers’ deaths. While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, there is no doubt FIFA has the resources to help mend these injustices and provide life-changing support to workers and their families.
“The time has come for FIFA to properly address its responsibilities rather than merely passing the buck to Qatar.”
Bieta Andemariam, Avaaz’s US Legal Director, said:
“Our letter has the backing of more than one million signatures from more than 190 countries.
“The global public has recognised the grave injustice perpetrated against these workers and has come together to demand that FIFA take a fraction of the billions of dollars made off the sweat, blood and lives of hundreds of thousands of these victims - and simply give them and their families what they are owed.”
Years of human rights violations
After FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers paid illegal recruitment fees, had their wages withheld, and even lost their lives while working to deliver the tournament. In recent years, Qatar has introduced a series of labour reforms aimed at improving workers’ conditions but a lack of enforcement means that abuses persist on a significant scale. In 2018, Qatar introduced a compensation fund for workers who were able to obtain a court ruling to show that they were owed unpaid wages, but this remains almost impossible to access for the vast majority of workers who have already left the country, or for families who lost loved ones.
A lack of investigations into the causes of workers’ deaths means the true impact of Qatar's extreme heat and gruelling working conditions will never be fully known, but research indicates that at least several hundred workers - across World Cup and non-World Cup projects alike - are likely to have died from work-related causes since 2010.
Since May 2022, a coalition of organisations has campaigned to ensure compensation and remedy for abused workers. The call has been supported by more than a dozen football associations and four FIFA World Cup sponsors, while an opinion poll in 15 countries showed that 84% of the public who had intended to watch the 2022 World Cup supported the proposal.