'Tainting FIFA World Cup's legacy: Amnesty says Qatar worker abuses persist a year after tournament

Amnesty and other rights groups have repeatedly demanded Qatar and international football's governing body institute a fund for worker injuries and deaths from the World Cup.

Published: 16th November 2023 04:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2023 04:57 PM   |  A+A-

Qatar workers-2022WorldCup

Migrant builders take a break while working at a construction site by the Corniche, in Doha, on November 24, 2022, during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (File Photo | AFP)

By AFP

DOHA: Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday accused Qatar of "continuing failure" on workers' rights as the first anniversary of the Gulf state's hosting of the 2022 World Cup approaches.

Following Qatar's successful bid to hold the first World Cup in the Middle East, and during the tournament, the gas-rich emirate faced a barrage of criticism over its human rights record and treatment of migrant workers.

But beginning in 2017, Doha, with the help of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), overhauled its employment laws, introducing a minimum wage along with health and safety reforms.

It also dismantled the controversial "Kafala" sponsorship system that gave employers powerful rights over whether workers could leave their jobs or even the country.

ALSO READ | Qatar's migrant workers enjoy World Cup on the cheap

Amnesty said it is not enough.

"Qatar's continuing failure to remedy abuses faced by migrant workers and adequately protect them from labour exploitation is tainting the legacy of the FIFA men's World Cup one year on," the group said in a statement.

"The government must urgently renew its commitment to protecting workers, while both FIFA and Qatar should agree to remediation plans for all those who suffered," the group's head of economic social justice, Steve Cockburn, said.

Amnesty and other rights groups have repeatedly demanded Qatar and international football's governing body institute a fund for worker injuries and deaths from the World Cup.

Qatar's government has disputed the level of accidental deaths on construction sites, reported by rights groups to be in the thousands, and accused critics of its World Cup of double standards.

"Today, a year on from the tournament too little has been done to right all these wrongs, but the workers who made the 2022 World Cup possible must not be forgotten," Cockburn said.

Amnesty questioned the maintenance of the minimum wage at its 2021 level, despite an increased cost of living, and said shortcomings continued on wage theft with obstruction to workers' movement between jobs persisting as employers exploit the system.

In its own progress report published earlier this week, the ILO's Qatar office said there were still cases of retaliation by employers against workers who request job changes, including cancelling of residency visas or filing false absconding charges.

However, the UN watchdog also said "although employer retaliation remains an issue, the number of such cases received by the ILO has declined substantially compared to previous years".

ALSO READ | FIFA World Cup: Amnesty pleads for FIFA to compensate migrant workers

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