Human rights campaign group Amnesty International has accused Fifa of failing to stop migrant abuse occurring across a World Cup 2022 site in Qatar, calling it "a stain on world football".
Amnesty published a report on Thursday revealing widespread forced labour abuses at the Khalifa Stadium in Qatari capital Doha, and the Aspire Zone, which encompasses the training pitches and facilities around the ground.
According to Amnesty, migrants who work in and around the Khalifa Stadium, one of 12 stadia being built or renovated for the World Cup, are subjected to squalid accommodation, passport confiscation and employer intimidation. They are paid lower wages than promised and are held to contracts until they pay off large fees commanded for simply securing them the work.
Only six of the 234 men interviewed for the latest report by Amnesty said they were paid the wage promised prior to entering Qatar for employment.
Claims like this have led Amnesty to condemn Fifa for its alleged disregard of human rights violations in the Gulf nation.
“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football,” Amnesty International secretary general, Salil Shetty, said in a press release. “For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare.
“Despite five years of promises, Fifa has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses.”
'The ugly side of the beautiful game: Labour exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup venue' is the fifth report from Amnesty on migrant labour abuses in the country since 2013.
Goal spoke to the report's editor, Mustafa Qadri, who explained how gardeners at the Khalifa Stadium are being conned by recruitment companies.
“They were promised $260 (£184) per month, plus a little bit extra for food, but what they actually get is $130 (£92) per month,” he said. “Now $260 when you've paid $1,000 to $4,300 in a recruitment fee to begin with is not very much money.
“And when you've got family on top of that, a wife, children, ailing parents and siblings, and you want to send money back for them... These are people who will take months or years just to break even.
“When you add on top of that the lack of dignity with the way that they're treated, it's pretty shocking.”
Qatar's sponsorship system, called kafala, puts all of the power entirely in the hands of employers, some of whom get away with abusing migrants until authorities step in.
But Qadri has called on Qatar's Supreme Committee, which is planning the country's World Cup, and Fifa to take immediate action against migrant abuse.
“These companies can plead ignorance but, under international law and morally, ignorance is no excuse,” he added.
“Beyond that, in terms of negligence, well one has to seriously ask that question because of the issues around not checking on the smaller companies at the end of the chain. We've been saying that now for several years.
“We've said [it] to the Supreme Committee, to the Qatari authorities, and we've been updating Fifa regularly both directly and through our public outputs that it's a problem. And yet nothing is really being done.”
Qatar's Supreme Committee's statement in response rejects the portrayal of the Khalifa Stadium as a place where forced labour is rife and insists the country is fit to stage World Cup 2022.
"The tone of Amnesty International’s latest assertions paint a misleading picture and do nothing to contribute to our efforts," it said. "Amnesty International’s investigation was limited to just four companies out of more than 40 currently engaged on Khalifa International Stadium.
"The conditions reported were not representative of the entire work force on Khalifa. We have always maintained this World Cup will act as a catalyst for change – it will not be built on the back of exploited workers. We wholly reject any notion that Qatar is unfit to host the World Cup."
Similarly, Fifa, which has been plagued by corruption scandals in the past 12 months, insists it is working with human rights groups and Qatar to improve conditions for workers on World Cup sites.
It stated in a press release: "Since 2011, Fifa has met with key stakeholders, including Amnesty International, to discuss the best way forward to achieve consistent and sustained implementation of fair working conditions on Fifa World Cup construction sites as quickly as possible. This is an ongoing process. Challenges remain, but Fifa is confident that the structures and processes set-up so far by the Supreme Committee."
Amnesty official Shetty added: “Hosting the World Cup has helped Qatar promote itself as an elite destination to some of the world’s biggest clubs. But world football cannot turn a blind eye to abuse in the facilities and stadiums where the game is played.
“If Fifa’s new leadership is serious about turning a page, it cannot allow its showcase global event to take place in stadiums built on the abuse of migrant workers.”
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