The human rights group Amnesty International has criticized Qatar, saying migrant workers are still being abused amid preparations for the 2022 World Cup. The group has also called on FIFA to do more to end the abuse.
The 52-page Amnesty report released on Thursday contains allegations of abuse of migrants working on the refurbishment of the Khalifa International Stadium, one of several selected to host soccer matches during the 2022 World Cup.
"The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football," a statement released by Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said. "Despite five years of promises, FIFA has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses."
A statement posted on AI's website said the report was based upon interviews with 132 construction workers on the stadium project, as well as 99 migrant landscapers at a surrounding sports complex not directly related to the tournament, and three other gardeners.
'Same problems as before'
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty's Gulf migrant rights researcher, who said he had visited Qatar as recently as this past February, also said there was little sign that the situation had improved significantly since its previous report was published.
"We are seeing the same problems there as before," he said. "Amnesty highlighted a range of labor abuses in Qatar. People were paying exorbitant recruiting fees, having their pay delayed, living in appallingly dirty accommodation. And also forced labor."
FIFA responded to the latest report with a statement posted on its website.
"FIFA is fully aware of the risks facing construction workers in Qatar and of the opportunity that FIFA, together with other stakeholders, has to facilitate the improvement of working conditions in the country," it said.
"We remain convinced that the unique attraction and visibility of the FIFA World Cup globally is a strong catalyst for significant change," it added.
Onus on Infantino
This was the first Amnesty report issued since Gianni Infantino was elected FIFA's new president at an Extraordinary Congress in Zurich on February 26. Infantino, who succeeded longtime FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in the post, did so promising significant changes to soccer's world governing body. In his statement on Thursday, Shetty said that doing more to end the abuse of labor in Qatar must be a priority.
"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," he said, before putting the onus on other major players in the beautiful game.
"It is time for football's leaders to speak out or be tainted by association, be they global football brands like Bayern Munich and PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) or major sponsors like Adidas and Coca-Cola."
Ever since late 2010, when FIFA awarded Qatar the right to host the 2022 World Cup, its preparations have been plagued by controversies, ranging from the treatment of migrant workers to the very bidding process that it won.
pfd/sb (AFP, dpa, AP)