Qatar: time running out for Infantino to break silence on migrant workers' compensation

Construction workers at the Khalifa International Stadium © Getty Images

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has avoided mentioning compensation campaign 

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have suffered abuse to make showpiece tournament possible

‘Time is short but it’s still not too late for FIFA to do the right thing’ - Steve Cockburn

With less than a week until kick-off at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, FIFA and its President Gianni Infantino are fast running out of time to commit to compensating migrant workers for abuses suffered during preparations for the tournament, said Amnesty International today.
  
In May, Amnesty and a coalition of organisations launched a campaign calling on Qatar and FIFA to establish a comprehensive remediation programme for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who had faced abuses such as illegal recruitment fees, unpaid wages, injury and death.  

To date, Infantino has provided no response to a joint letter sent by the coalition on the campaign’s launch, while repeatedly avoiding the compensation issue in public.   
 
The remediation proposal has gained widespread support - from more than a dozen football associations, including those of England, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the USA; from World Cup sponsors Coca Cola, Adidas, Budweiser and McDonalds; and, via a viral video last month, from the Australian national team. In September, a global poll commissioned by Amnesty across 15 countries showed that 84% of likely World Cup viewers also favour the proposal. 
  
However, while FIFA’s senior leadership have acknowledged the importance of compensation, the footballing body and its president are yet to make any public commitment. On 4 November, Infantino sent a letter to all 32 nations competing at the World Cup urging them to “focus on the football” and to set aside human rights concerns. It followed comments by Qatar’s Labour Minister Ali bin Samikh al-Marri dismissing Amnesty’s campaign as a “publicity stunt”.

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

“Unless he breaks his silence on the issue of compensation, Gianni Infantino looks set to refuse a golden opportunity to leave a World Cup legacy that respects and honours the workers who made it possible.

“He has been presented with reams of evidence about the human consequences of the last 12 years and a concrete proposal to help victims and their families rebuild their lives, so the message from Zurich and Doha cannot simply be to focus on football.
 
“FIFA cannot use the spectacle of the World Cup to dodge its responsibilities. It has a clear duty towards the hundreds of thousands of workers who suffered while building the stadiums and infrastructure needed for the tournament. 

“A public commitment to a compensation fund - while not undoing the past - would represent a major step forward. 

“Time is short but it’s still not too late for FIFA to do the right thing.” 

Remediation programme

Amnesty is calling on FIFA and Qatar to publicly commit to establishing a remediation programme for all abuses related to the preparation and delivery of the World Cup, and for the funding of programmes to prevent further abuses. Thereafter, FIFA and Qatar should work together with others - including workers, civil society, trade unions and the International Labour Organisation - to define the details and delivery of the programme.  

Reforms are unfinished business

Since 2017, the Qatari authorities have put in place measures to protect workers from wage theft and enhance access to justice, but these do not cover all workers or address abuses in the years before the systems were established. Crucially, significant implementation and enforcement gaps remain. For example, workers who have already left Qatar cannot access labour committees or a fund established to pay them when their employers fail to do so. 

Last month, Amnesty published a major report - Unfinished Business - showing that abuses against migrant workers remain rife in Qatar, with thousands of workers across all projects still facing issues such as delayed or unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs and limited access to justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers remain uninvestigated.

View latest press releases