GENEVA (AP)At an upcoming meeting of national soccer federations, FIFA will be urged to compensate migrant workers and families of those who died or were injured on World Cup projects in Qatar.
The issue will be raised by Norwegian soccer officials at the FIFA Congress meeting on March 16 in Rwanda, human rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday. It will be the first post-tournament meeting of more than 200 federations.
The Norwegian proposal calls on FIFA to fulfill its policy commitment to provide remedy when it has “caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts.”
“This is an opportunity for Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, to finally put things right for the workers that made the tournament possible,” Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, Steve Cockburn, said in a statement.
Infantino in on course to be re-elected unopposed in Rwanda where FIFA will present its annual report showing financial reserves more than doubled to nearly $4 billion in 2022 because of the World Cup.
Qatar spent a reported $200 billion preparing for the World Cup with hundreds of thousands of construction workers, many from South Asia, needed to build stadiums, hotels, roads and metro lines plus other key projects.
Cockburn said many migrant workers in Qatar “suffered wage theft, illegal recruitment fees, injuries and even death.” Workers had few or no labor rights tied to contracts in an employment system that was eventually reformed as the World Cup approached.
Exact numbers of worker deaths and injuries have long been disputed and hard to prove in part because Qatar did not require investigations.
Norway took the lead among European soccer bodies urging FIFA to push for a formal compensation fund. Qatari government officials dismissed similar calls as a publicity stunt.
Infantino had long claimed the World Cup was a catalyst for change, and praised Qatar as a regional leader in social reforms, before using an eve-of-tournament diatribe against European critics to suggest creating a legacy fund from World Cup revenues.
He talked of a global education project and a “labor excellence hub” in partnership with the United Nations-backed International Labor Organization.
However, Amnesty’s Cockburn said “it remains unclear how this will be used, and whether any of it will be deployed to remediate abuses.”
A Qatari government fund used mainly to reimburse unpaid wages was, the Norwegian soccer federation said, “neither accessible to workers who have left the country nor able to support families of workers who have died because those deaths were not investigated.”
Norway’s proposal on the FIFA agenda calls for “a commitment to assess whether it has fulfilled its responsibility to remedy related to the 2022 World Cup, including an investigation into World Cup-related deaths and injuries, and if not, how this responsibility can be fulfilled.”
FIFA is also being urged to ensure remedies and reparations are part of a human rights strategy for all future tournaments it organizes.
The Norwegian proposal is the last item on FIFA’s agenda before Infantino’s scheduled closing remarks in the Rwandan capital Kigali. It is unclear how much support it will get at a typically tightly scripted event. —
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