Workers at construction sites for the Russia 2018 stadiums are facing several human rights abuses, claims the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW alleges that, despite FIFA publishing human rights reports and policies, actions on the ground are falling short in Russia.
"A red card for Russia"
In June, a report by HRW, documented how workers faced unpaid wages, failure to provide contracts, and unsafe working conditions.
“FIFA’s promise to make human rights a centerpiece of its global operations has been put to the test in Russia, and FIFA is coming up short,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Construction workers on World Cup stadiums face exploitation and abuse, and FIFA has not yet shown that it can effectively monitor, prevent, and remedy these issues.”
HRW interviewed numerous Russian nationals, as well as foreign migrants, working on the stadiums. Several were afraid to speak out about abuses, fearing reprisals from their employers.
Workers have organized strikes, in most cases fruitless, to protest non-payment of wages and other labor abuses.
In May, according to Newsweek, two North Korean Russia 2018 construction laborers died after complaining of breathing difficulties. According to the publication, seven other foreign workers also complained of health problems.
As of today, the global trade union Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) has documented the death of 20 workers on Russia World Cup stadium sites.
HRW consultant Semyon Simonov was detained while investigating the exploitation of workers. He was interrogated and held for three hours.
Abuses against journalists investigating construction sites have also been documented.
There’s fear that, as construction is entering the crucial final phases, danger to workers will increase.
FIFA falling short says HRW
Earlier this month, FIFA published a report by its new Human Rights Advisory Board, in which football's governing body identified several serious risk areas for human rights abuses in Russia.
'We highlight the long-term commitment required from FIFA to build systems at the operational level that can proactively identify and respond to the most severe human rights risks,' declared the Advisory Board.
Also, FIFA set new human rights bid requirements for the 2026 World Cup and included human rights responsibilities in the third article of its statutes.
However, HRW calls for FIFA to move beyond reports and decrees, and to take concrete steps to make things right.
“FIFA and the Russian government took a notable step in organizing labor monitoring on World Cup stadiums, but to be credible, FIFA needs to make public detailed information about its inspections, what inspectors have found, and the actual results, if any, for workers,” said Buchanan. “There could not be a better time for FIFA to move away from the secrecy that has plagued its operations and to show it can achieve meaningful protections for workers, and be transparent and accountable.”