Amnesty International finds Qatar falling short on labour reforms ahead of World Cup; FIFA calls for additional progress, govt. reiterates commitment

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Article
6 February 2019

FIFA says Qatar must do more on workers' rights

Author: RTÉ

Qatar must make "additional progress" on improving conditions for the army of nearly two million migrant workers helping the Gulf state prepare for the 2022 World Cup, FIFA has said.

The candid admission from world football's governing body comes after two recent reports into the slow pace of change in the oil-and-gas-rich country by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

In a statement released, a FIFA spokesman said it "welcomes the important steps taken in recent months" by Qatar but "we share the view of Amnesty International that additional progress is needed for the full implementation of the commitments for comprehensive labour reform".

The spokesman added that the Qataris are "working intensely" with the International Labour Organisation and others to improve matters and said FIFA "continues to engage" with the local organising committee to "ensure respect for the rights of workers who are involved in World Cup-related activities".

... Middle East labour law expert Nicholas McGeehan believes FIFA has failed to use its leverage to demand quicker and more meaningful changes. "Qatar has promised the earth but the reality is that despite all the noise about their reform process, they have yet to deliver on key reforms that will effectively protect workers," McGeehan said.

"FIFA and other influential actors should be clear about what they expect Qatar to do, and should be demanding a timetable for serious reform of the kafala system, which is as entrenched as it has ever been and remains the central pillar of an extremely abusive labour system."

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Article
6 February 2019

The Government Communications Office’s statement in response to Amnesty International Report “Reality Check”

Author: Government Communications Office, Qatar

The Government of the State of Qatar welcomes Amnesty International’s continued interest and scrutiny of labour systems in Qatar and the wider region.

From the outset, we have said that we understood labour reform would be a journey and not an end in itself...Far from seeing time as running out, the Government of the State of Qatar understands further change is needed and we remain committed to developing these changes as quickly as possible, while ensuring they are effective and appropriate for our labour market conditions. Practical, efficient and lasting change takes time and that is what we have committed to.

We also understand the importance of ensuring labour laws are effectively enforced. This is why we have not hesitated to make examples of individuals or companies who fail to adhere to Qatar’s laws. In the first half of 2018, 11,994 companies were penalized or banned from operating for violating Qatar’s labour laws.

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Article
6 February 2019

World Cup 2022: Qatar 'falling significantly short' on reforms - Amnesty International

Author: Dan Roan, BBC

Qatar is "running out of time" to honour promised labour reforms before the 2022 World Cup, says Amnesty International... [A] ... report titled 'Reality Check'... warned that "much more needs to be done" and that workers were still being subject to "exploitation and abuse".

... world football governing body Fifa said it "welcomes the important steps taken... by the government of Qatar towards reforming its laws on the protection of workers' rights". However, it added: "We share the view of Amnesty International that additional progress is needed..."

The Qatari government said it "welcomes" the "continued interest and scrutiny"... and claims it penalised or banned 11,994 companies in 2018 for violating labour laws... "Far from seeing time as running out, the Government of the State of Qatar understands further change is needed and we remain committed to developing these changes...

Amnesty acknowledges that Qatar has "finally begun a high-profile reform process" amid international pressure over worker deaths because of poor conditions. They include new laws for a temporary minimum wage and a workers' insurance fund...

The study... says that workers continue to be vulnerable to serious abuses, "sometimes amounting to forced labour and human trafficking"... [and] there has been "no meaningful reform of the 'kafala' sponsorship system", which ties workers to their employer. Qatar promised to abolish kafala... in 2016.

... around 30,000 workers on projects specifically for the World Cup were supposed to have benefitted from stricter labour standards, ethical recruitment, timely payment, the banning of forced labour and new accommodation. It concluded that while these had led to "some real improvements", they were "not universally respected", and that last year World Cup organisers admitted that contractors working on one of the stadiums had breached a summer working hours ban...

An audit of 19 contractors working on World Cup sites also found that abuses such as excessive working hours remained at a majority of the companies...

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Report
5 February 2019

Qatar: Reality check: The state of migrant workers’ rights with four years to go until the Qatar 2022 World Cup

Author: Amnesty International

Despite nascent reforms...labour abuse continues on a significant scale today. In September 2018, Amnesty International published an investigation into an engineering company called Mercury MENA that had left dozens of workers stranded and penniless, eventually feeling obliged to return home in debt despite being owed thousands of dollars of wages and benefits. The workers had been involved in building vital infrastructure serving the city and stadium hosting the opening and the final matches of the 2022 World Cup.

Responsibilities and solutions do not only lie with the Qatari government. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights makes clear that companies must – at a minimum – respect human rights, including the rights of workers.

For entities like FIFA, this means having an ongoing responsibility to both prevent abuses and to address those that have occurred as a result of their business operations linked to the World Cup. This means, in line with its own Human Rights Policy, FIFA should not only ensure the respect of labour rights in the construction of World Cup stadia, but also use its leverage to ensure rights are respected in a broader range of infrastructure projects needed for delivery of the 2022 World Cup. This would include, for example, the cooling systems or accommodation complexes highlighted in the Mercury MENA case, key transport projects and the hospitality sector.

With the clock ticking, FIFA should also proactively seek to influence the Qatari authorities to fully and quickly deliver on their promised reforms, so that the protection of all migrant workers in the country may be a positive and enduring legacy of the 2022 World Cup.

Other stakeholders including other governments, national football associations and sponsors can also add their voices and play an influential role at this critical juncture.

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