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US, French Politicians Urge FIFA to Remedy Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

As World Cup Nears, Global Momentum for Worker Compensation Call Grows

Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Lusail, Qatar, December 2019.  © 2019 Hassan Ammar/AP Photo

US Representative Jan Schakowsky alongside 14 other congress people sent a letter to FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino calling for compensation of migrant workers in Qatar in advance of the 2022 World Cup, set to begin November 21.

The letter, sent September 29, supports migrant workers who suffered abuse or even died while building the World Cup infrastructure, stating “We stand with workers and join labor and human rights advocates across the world in calling upon FIFA to establish a workers’ compensation fund, supported by a migrant workers’ center, prior to the tournament’s first whistle.”

On October 11, over 120 French parliamentarians signed a petition calling on FIFA, football’s governing body, “to set up, as soon as possible, a minimum fund of $440 million, in order to be able to compensate all workers, or their families, who participated in the preparation of the 2022 World Cup and whose fundamental rights were violated.”

These politicians join a growing list of people pushing the #PayUpFIFA campaign. The list includes prominent former players, four sponsors, several prominent qualifying national football associations and fans from across the world. The French Football Federation recently backed the call. However, the US Soccer Federation  has yet to support the call despite hosting the next World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

The steps taken by US and French representatives are an urgent reminder for those with power and influence over FIFA to break their silence or move beyond cautiously worded statements and call for FIFA to pay up, thereby fulfilling its human rights responsibility according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and FIFA’s own human rights policy.

Recent research by Human Rights Watch has found that while Qatar has introduced several reforms in the last few years, the benefits have been limited due to their late introduction, their narrow scope, or weak enforcement. Consequently, the scale of uncompensated human rights abuses in Qatar since 2010, when the country was awarded World Cup hosting rights, is significant and requires remedy.

With less than 40 days left until the first ball is kicked and celebrations begin, instead of just focusing on how this is going to be the “best World Cup ever,” FIFA should turn its attention to remedy the huge costs – including human costs – created by the tournament.

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