With a month to go until the opening match of the World Cup, human rights abuses “persist on a significant scale” in Qatar, according to Amnesty International.
In a final pre-tournament report, Amnesty said that progress has been delivered by the Qatari state on the protections afforded migrant workers. But weak regulations and a lack of enforcement means there is “still a long way to go”, the organisation says. Amnesty calls for a number of actions, including support from Qatar and Fifa for financial compensation for workers.
“Despite the positive evolution of Qatar’s labour system, substantial work remains to effectively implement and enforce these [changes],” the report says. “Ultimately, human rights abuses persist on a significant scale today.”
Among its observations, the report finds that workers in security and domestic labour remain particularly vulnerable to exploitation, with some expected to work up to 18 hours a day without a weekly day off. Furthermore, Amnesty argues, there has been insufficient research into the thousands of deaths of those working in construction in the country over the past decade, and the contribution played by extreme heat. The report also finds vestiges of the abolished kafala system in the country, and states that wages are still commonly withheld from workers.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, said: “Although Qatar has made important strides on labour rights over the past five years, it’s abundantly clear that there is a great distance still to go.
“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.”
“Progress must not grind to a halt once the World Cup roadshow leaves Doha. Turning a blind eye to the abuses suffered by thousands of migrant workers over the years flies in the face of their respective international obligations and responsibilities.”
Last month the English Football Association endorsed a compensation scheme for workers and their families involved in building the World Cup infrastructure in Qatar. They were joined by a number of other associations, with the United States Soccer Federation adding its name this week. Fifa and World Cup organisers, however, have yet to confirm their commitment to such a scheme.
Fifa responded in a statement: “Fifa remains in positive ongoing dialogue with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and all relevant authorities in Qatar over initiatives that will benefit migrant workers in Qatar long after the final game of the World Cup. Further information will be provided in due course.”
The Qatari supreme committee for delivery and legacy said in a statement: “The advancements in workers’ welfare is a legacy we are very proud of, and one that we are already seeing in action. We have always believed that the World Cup will be a catalyst to accelerate positive initiatives, leaving a legacy of meaningful and sustainable progress for the country and region.
“Our progress has been recognised by one of the world’s largest trade unions, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO), and we welcome the recognition by Amnesty International, highlighting that our work has “improved the living and working conditions of thousands of migrant workers” and that it “represents an unprecedented and significant improvement in the living and working conditions.
“Work is ongoing and there is of course still room for improvement. We are continuing to explore alongside key partners the opportunities to enhance the legacy that improves the lives of workers and lays the foundation for fair, sustainable and lasting reforms.”