Soccer

England will try to highlight Qatar human rights abuse concerns

Qatar faces accusations of human rights abuse of migrant workers helping build the World Cup infrastructure, and England is working to “educate themselves”.

Amnesty International is an organization based in the UK which focuses on fighting for human rights. They recently released a report claiming that migrant workers are being unfairly treated whilst building the stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup 2022 tournament in Qatar.

"The exploitation of Qatar's massive migrant workforce has already cast a dark shadow over next year's World Cup," said Amnesty International UK's chief executive Sacha Deshmukh.

Qatar's history of labor exploitation

This is not the first time Qatar has been called out for the poor treatment of migrant workers. It was first highlighted when they were awarded the World Cup in 2010. In 2017, laws were put into place to make changes to the rights of migrant workers including stipulations on working hours, committees for settlement disputes, a new minimum wage, nixing a rule which required workers to ask permission to change jobs or leave the country, and a fund to ensure that wages were actually paid. All looks good on paper, but the problem is that in reality, nothing really changed. According to Amnesty, they found a “failure of implementation” and spoke to a Kenyan worker who confirmed that nothing had changed on the ground and that conditions are “appalling”.

Amnesty calls on England to use their position to speak out

Amnesty is urging England, who just qualified for the World Cup on Monday, as well as former England captain David Beckham, and FIFA to use their position to highlight these human rights issues. The World Cup will kick off in just over a year, and Amnesty is calling on actual changes before then. "It's more important than ever that England's coaching staff, players and supporters raise human rights issues ahead of next year's kick-off,” said Deshmukh.

England manager Gareth Southgate said, “We will take the time to educate ourselves and if we feel there are areas we can highlight and help, then clearly we have always tried to do that and we would do that.”

Qatar government rejects Amnesty’s statement

The Qatar government said that they have never denied that the labor system in the country needs improving. At the same time, they say progress has indeed been made. They have said that Amnesty is failing to focus on any of the workers who actually benefited from the reforms made in 2017. They said: "Labor reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement. For this reason, and despite Amnesty's criticism, Qatar will continue to work constructively with a range of labor experts and practitioners to build on the progress that has been made."

Fifa acknowledged in a statement that the changes have in fact helped protect hundreds of thousands of workers in Qatar, saying, “we need to recognize the significant progress achieved in a very short time, thanks to the commitment of the highest authorities in the country.” They also said they would continue to push for even better protection and implementation of protection of workers through “constructive dialogue with Qatari authorities”.

Along with England, players from Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany have protested about these alleged human rights violations in Qatar.