Laureen Garcin (@laureengrcn)
Advocacy and Communication intern at Human Rights Watch
Two weeks ago, several media outlets reported that a discussion had begun between Hugo Lloris, captain of the French team, Harry Kane, captain of the England team, and Christian Eriksen, a footballer for Denmark, about a possible collective action for human rights during the 2022 World Cup. As captain of the French national team, Lloris could have a considerable impact by taking a stand on the issue.
During the World Cup in Qatar in November 2022, the French team will play matches in stadiums and stay in hotels built by migrant workers, many who have never received compensation for abuses they suffered since arriving in Qatar, including avoidable injuries, wage theft and exorbitant recruitment fees. Thousands have lost lives to unexplained causes that were never investigated nor compensated. In Qatar, migrant workers are not allowed to join unions or participate in strikes - so many migrant workers suffer these abuses silently for years.
Didier Deschamps, coach of the French national team, has always assured his players were "free to express themselves" on the plight of migrant workers in Qatar. However, the reality is much more ambiguous, especially because of the immense influence of Qatar in the French football world. The Paris-Saint-Germain team is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, a company headed by Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaïfi - also a member of the board of UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations. BeIn Sports France, one of the largest sports television channels broadcasting in France, is part of a media group owned by Qatar.
Qatar's influence should not stop Lloris, other French national team players and the French Football Federation (FFF) from acting in solidarity with migrant workers. They can use their influence and join our call for FIFA and Qatar to provide remedies including financial compensation for the human rights violations suffered by migrant workers. In doing so, they will lend their voices to migrant workers who have been silenced by an abusive system in which speaking out can lead to arrest, imprisonment and deportation.
Financial compensation for families who have lost loved ones in the World Cup construction sites and are now struggling will not bring back the missing persons, but it would give them some financial respite. FIFA has said that it is currently studying compensation mechanisms and is due to respond on the issue by the third week of July. The French team therefore has a window of opportunity to call on FIFA to meet its human rights responsibilities.
Lloris and his players should take a moral stand and call for redress and compensation for migrant workers. Otherwise, they will abandon the very migrant workers who built the stadiums they will play in and the World Cup infrastructure they will use.