Qatar labour abuses still ‘rife’ ahead of World Cup, say campaigners

Labour abuses are still “rife” across Qatar among the migrant workforce helping the country stage the World Cup, a report from Amnesty International has claimed.

The campaigning organisation said thousands of workers who have helped build its infrastructure are still facing issues including delayed or unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions and barriers to changing jobs, while the deaths of thousands remain uninvestigated.

With a month until the football tournament begins, Amnesty called for Fifa and Qatar to establish a compensation fund for “abused” migrant workers.

The country has overhauled its labour system since 2017, which the group acknowledged has led to improvements for its two million-strong migrant workforce, but it called for more to be done.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said: “With the World Cup looming, the job of protecting migrant workers from exploitation is only half done, while that of compensating those who have suffered abuses has barely started.

“It’s also imperative that Qatar commits to improving conditions in the long term. Progress must not grind to a halt once the World Cup roadshow leaves Doha.”

In February last year the Guardian estimated that more than 6,500 migrant workers had died since the gulf nation was selected to host the tournament.

Amnesty said this week that hundreds of construction worker lives could have been saved with better and more adequate protection for builders working in the country’s heat on the World Cup and other projects.

A spokesperson for Qatar’s government said: “Qatar is incredibly proud of the labour reforms it has introduced. Few countries have come so far so quickly, and Qatar now leads the region on labour rights.

“Our commitment to labour reform will not end after the World Cup. Qatar is in this for the long haul and we are determined to make labour reform an integral part of our World Cup legacy.

“Beyond the tournament we will continue to work in tandem with international experts, including the International Labour Organization, to further strengthen and enforce the reforms. We welcome engagement from all groups, including those who are critical of Qatar, as long as it is constructive, genuine, and geared towards lasting change.”

A Fifa spokesperson said improved protections for workers in Qatar in recent years had been introduced “largely” as a result of it hosting the World Cup. They added that compensation “in various forms” had been paid to workers where welfare standards had not been upheld.

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