World Cup can improve ‘appalling Qatar record’— Fifa
February 13, 2014
Brussels: The 2022 World Cup can help improve the “appalling” human rights situation in Qatar, soccer’s governing body Fifa said on Thursday, promising to give the issue greater weight when awarding future tournaments.
The World Cup represents “a risk and a chance ... it can help improve the human rights situation,” Fifa executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said.
“The Qatar authorities realise they cannot continue with business as usual,” Zwanziger told the human rights panel of the European Parliament.
“The country needs to think in general about the welfare of workers ... everyone should do something to improve the appalling situation, not just Fifa,” he added.
In response to Fifa demands, Qatar earlier this week issued new guidelines to protect thousands of foreign workers employed on World Cup construction projects. Critics say the workers, mostly from South Asia, are ruthlessly exploited and live in degrading conditions in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
The Gulf state’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, responsible for organising the tournament, said it would ensure they are properly and promptly paid, have adequate housing and working conditions of global standards.
The Supreme Committee also asked the International Labour Organisation to verify the procedures were followed.
Fifa has been harshly criticised for awarding the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Zwanziger conceded that the human rights issue had not been properly assessed at the time the decision was made in 2010 and Fifa would have to do better next time.
“We need to rethink this and give human rights a much higher status,” he said.
The Fifa ethics committee is investigating the issue and will report back later this year “when we can have that discussion,” he said.
At the same time, Fifa had to work on the basis that the decision had been made and contracts signed for the 2022 tournament, Zwanziger said, promising to “keep up the pressure” with spot checks and controls on the ground.
Amnesty International researcher James Lynch, also present at the hearing, said Qatar’s proposed remedies were a positive start but offered only partial redress.
Other speakers also called on Qatar to do much more.
The panel singled out its Kafala system as the key problem since workers are totally dependent on their employer sponsors who can withhold pay or, by keeping their passports, prevent them leaving Qatar.
Kafala means “Qatar is a slave state for 1.4 million migrant workers,” said Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation.
The panel said it had invited a representative from the Qatar Embassy in Brussels to reply but no official was able to attend.