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Qatar: FIFA failing on migrant worker compensation fund

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has shifted his position over a Qatar worker compensation fund © MASASHI HARA

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare and Equidem condemn FIFA’s shifting position on effective compensation scheme 

FIFA set to make $7.5bn from World Cup which concludes this week 

‘FIFA could make a lasting difference to the lives of the true heroes behind this World Cup’ - Steve Cockburn 

FIFA is failing to fulfill its human rights responsibilities by refusing to commit to compensate migrant workers and their families for abuses in the preparation and delivery of the World Cup in Qatar, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare and Equidem said today. 


Since June, with a coalition of organisations calling for remedy for migrant workers, FIFA has indicated it was committed to identifying ways to compensate migrant workers who faced death, injury and rampant wage theft, and to support an independent migrant workers’ centre as part of a legacy programme. However, on the eve of the tournament, FIFA instead announced a Legacy Fund which currently includes no provision for worker compensation. 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has also made misleading comments that workers can access compensation through an existing mechanism in Qatar, when this mechanism is not set up to provide compensation on any meaningful scale related to deaths, injuries and historic wage theft. 

With the World Cup 2022 entering its final week, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare and Equidem have called on FIFA to use the legacy fund to finance compensation for workers and the families of those who have died. 

FIFA is set to generate US$7.5 billion from this tournament and should have fulfilled its own human rights responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles which make clear that a business enterprise’s responsibility to respect human rights “exists independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfill their own human rights obligations and does not diminish those obligations”. FIFA also owes a public explanation over why it has switched from “considering” the proposal for remedy to dismissing it completely. 

Calls for compensation have escalated since the launch of the #PayUpFIFA campaign in May, when a global coalition of human rights organisations, migrant rights groups, unions and fan groups called on FIFA to establish with Qatar a comprehensive programme to provide remedy for all abuses related to the World Cup. FIFA failed to conduct adequate human rights due diligence when it awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 and has failed since then to take timely and effective measures to mitigate and remedy abuses. 

A remedy fund and an independent migrant workers’ centre is widely supported by the global public, football associationssponsors, political leaders and sporting figures. Last week, Avaaz presented 720,000 signatures from members of the public supporting the campaign. 

Nick McGeehan, founding director of FairSquare, said:

“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. 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.” 

Tirana Hassan, Human Rights Watch’s Acting Executive Director, said: 

“FIFA’s egregious whitewashing of serious abuses against migrant workers in Qatar is both a global embarrassment and a sinister tactic to escape its human rights responsibility to compensate thousands of workers who faced abuse and the families of those who died to make this World Cup possible. FIFA continues to cash in on billions of dollars in revenue but refuses to offer a single cent for the families of migrant workers who died or those workers who were cheated out of their wages.” 

Mustafa Qadri, Equidem’s Chief Executive Officer, said: 

“World Cup workers and their relatives are contacting us demanding compensation for unpaid wages, recruitment charges and other harms including deaths. Rather than shifting the goal posts, FIFA and Qatar should heed these calls. The tournament has been mired by worker deaths and exploitation, and significant restrictions on freedom of expression and solidarity with the LGBTI+ community. This is an opportunity for FIFA and Qatar to end the tournament with a positive legacy for the women and men who have made it possible.”

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said

“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. 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.” 

FIFA’s changing position

In the months before the World Cup, FIFA indicated in a series of statements and briefings that it planned to compensate workers. This included a series of public statements indicating that FIFA was open to compensating migrant workers and supporting an independent migrant workers’ centre. At the 13 October Council of Europe hearing on labour rights in Qatar, FIFA Deputy Secretary General Alasdair Bell said that “compensation is certainly something that we’re interested in progressing”. FIFA has also previously assured the UEFA Working Group on Workers’ Rights in Qatar that it was “looking into compensation mechanisms”. 

However, on the eve of the tournament, Infantino responded to calls to ensure adequate remedy for workers by contending that the Qatar Labour Ministry’s Workers Support and Insurance Fund would take care of compensation. He invited anyone believing they were owed compensation simply to “contact the relevant authorities to seek due recompense”. 

The Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, which became operational in 2020, has been used to compensate workers for wage theft after employers failed to pay out following labour court rulings in workers’ favour. But the fund is not currently able to provide compensation on any meaningful scale related to deaths, injuries and historic wage theft in the decade before it came into operation. 

The Qatari authorities have also failed to provide disaggregated details about the announced US$350 million reimbursed to migrant workers for wage theft, despite repeated requests by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. In addition, research has also shown that victims’ access to existing compensation mechanisms is rife with obstacles, payments are capped, and that it is nearly impossible for workers or families to apply after they’ve returned to their home countries. The biggest obstacle is that in a large majority of deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, families are ineligible for compensation as the authorities have attributed deaths to “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest” without properly investigating underlying causes of death. Under Qatar’s Labour Law, only deaths and injuries attributed to work-related causes require employers to pay compensation.

Legacy fund and labour hub

FIFA has announced it will establish a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Legacy Fund to be used for education projects in developing countries. Although the size of the fund is not yet known, previous legacy funds have been set at $100 million. However, the announcement makes no reference to using the fund to finance remedy for migrant workers who suffered abuses to make the 2022 World Cup possible, nor to support an independent migrant workers’ centre as called for by trade unions. 

In addition, FIFA has said it would set aside funding to support the creation of a more general “labour excellence hub”, in partnership with the International Labour Organisation. The role of this would be to share “best practices” in labour matters and support adherence to the UN's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in future tournaments. Yet, access to a remedy is a foundational principle of the UN Guiding Principles to which FIFA itself is bound.

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