FIFA establishes worker welfare body for Qatar World Cup

FIFA establishes worker welfare body for Qatar World Cup
The head of football's world governing body FIFA has announced plans to set up a monitoring body to oversee working conditions for labourers working on World Cup stadiums in Qatar.
3 min read
24 April, 2016
Qatar has welcomed Infantino's monitoring initiative [AFP]
The International Federation for Football Associations (FIFA) has announced plans to establish an oversight body to monitor working conditions on World Cup stadium sites in Qatar.

"The hosting of the FIFA World Cup is an opportunity to set a benchmark in terms of sustainable and fair working conditions for all workers in Qatar," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said as he concluded a two-day visit to the Gulf state over the weekend.

Infantino added that Qatar, the event's first Arab host, supported the monitoring initiative.

"I was very pleased to see the personal commitment of the Prime Minister and all the relevant authorities in Qatar," he said.

"There is a clear commitment at the highest level."

Hassan al-Thawadi, the Secretary General of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said that Doha was working to reduce abuses he described as occurring on construction sites all over the world.

"We welcome the approach of FIFA to add an independent monitoring body, which will add to our independent monitor, Impact, and oversee the progress taking place on the ground," he said.

"Progress will be made on the ground, in terms of our social commitments and workers' welfare."

Infantino faces pressure from human rights groups to press for reform of labour laws in Qatar, including its Kafala sponsorship system, whereby employers effectively control a worker's freedom to leave the country.

"Of course I discussed the changes to the Kafala legislation this morning with the Prime Minister, this is also something which has to be acknowledged, respected and enforced."

The hosting of the FIFA World Cup is an opportunity to set a benchmark in terms of sustainable and fair working conditions for all workers in Qatar.
- Gianni Infantino

Acknowledging that FIFA, too, had an important role to play in order to improve safety and labour conditions for builders working on sites for the 2022 World Cup, Infantino said that the world body would "step up efforts" to ensure the protection of the workers' rights is fulfilled.

"We will not just sit and wait," he said.

Switzerland's attorney-general has launched an investigation into FIFA's decision to award the event to Qatar, as well as the 2018 World Cup to Russia, at a vote in December 2010 in Zurich.

But Infantino said there was no question of the tournament being held elsewhere.

Abuse 'exposed'

Earlier this month, Amnesty International reported on abuses against migrant workers during preparations for the World Cup based on the accounts of 132 workers at the sites.

"The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football," Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said.

"For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare."

All of those interviewed reported some kind of abuse, including crowded living quarters, salary payments being withheld for months, and measures including passport confiscation that make it difficult to leave the country. 

Qatari officials said they were concerned by a number of features of the report and promised to investigate further.

The small, wealthy Gulf Arab state is building facilities to hold the 2022 World Cup and has imported hundreds of thousands of construction workers for that purpose, drawing more attention to the conditions of its migrant labour community.