Fifa urged to act over workers' rights in Qatar

Fifa urged to act over workers' rights in Qatar
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Published May 19th, 2015 - 13:59 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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British trade union leaders and politicians have called on Fifa's sponsors to do more to hold football's governing body to account over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar
British trade union leaders and politicians have called on Fifa's sponsors to do more to hold football's governing body to account over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar

British trade union leaders and politicians have called on Fifa's sponsors to do more to hold football's governing body to account over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar.

Fifa's biggest sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald's, all have strict policies outlawing, for example, indentured labour and the confiscation of passports for their own workforces and are being urged to challenge these practices in Qatar, where hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers are building infrastructure in preparation for the World Cup in 2022.

"Qatar is a slave state," said Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation. "Fifa knows Qatar is a slave state. Qatar could fix it. It is not about poverty. It is about greed. If Fifa were serious, they could turn it around. But they choose not to."

Fifa has put in place strict rules for labourers working on World Cup sites, and Qatar has been proactive in providing accommodation, which features comfortable beds and TV and leisure facilities, to the world's media.

But these agreements apply only to World Cup stadiums, despite almost all the modernisation work being done in the country, the building of hotels and roads and shopping malls, being a consequence of the victorious World Cup bid.

"[World Cup workers' rules] are probably in the realm of 60,000 to 80,000 rooms," Burrow said. "Fifa knows it has the ultimate power. All it has to do is say yes to workers' rights. To the introduction of International Labour standards. If it did that then it would be respected."

Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who is active in the New Fifa Now group, said: "If McDonald's beef cattle lived in those conditions, you wouldn't buy their burgers. Why should they expect the men who are building the facilities that will host a tournament they sponsor to be living in those conditions as well? The same applies for the rest of the sponsors as well."

Stephen Russell, from the Trades Union Congress, and a spokesperson for the pressure group Playfair Qatar, said: "Fifa can change laws to sell beer, but not to save lives."

For Brazil 2014, Fifa insisted the law was changed to sell alcohol within football stadiums. Come 2022 it will insist its official beer, Budweiser, is sold both in fan zones and stadiums, although it is currently forbidden in Qatar, a socially conservative Islamic nation.

Human rights groups have estimated that some 4,000 migrant workers will die building World Cup stadiums and other infrastructure by the time the tournament begins in 2022. Monitoring these numbers is made possible only by figures supplied by the Indian and Nepalese governments, as the many other countries who provide migrant labour to Qatar do not record the statistics.

Qatar itself does not monitor such figures, or provide information on fatalities on construction sites.

Meanwhile, Qatar's government yesterday issued a statement over the arrest and detention of a group of BBC journalists who had been invited to the country by the Prime Minister to view migrant labour camps.

The Government Communications Office said the journalists had "trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries".

But it did not explain why, as the BBC claimed, the journalists had been trailed, and photographed, by government security personnel since their arrival in the country.

Copyright © Independent Print Limited

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