FIFA has received an open letter backed by a million signatures demanding compensation for migrant workers at the Qatar World Cup ahead of its annual congress.
World football’s governing body is meeting in Rwanda on Thursday, with human rights responsibilities at tournaments and potential compensation relating to the 2022 event on the agenda.
The Norwegian FA lodged an official request ahead of congress that urged FIFA to “assess whether it has fulfilled its responsibility to remedy related to the 2022 World Cup, including an investigation into World Cup-related deaths and injuries”.
Qatari organisers have admitted that as many as 500 workers died in building-site accidents across the country since 2014, but The Athletic referred to “thousands of unexplained migrant worker deaths” throughout the tournament.
Human rights organisations Avaaz and Amnesty International have now intensified their efforts ahead of the Kigali congress, delivering a petition containing signatures gathered from 190 countries, as well as custom-designed shirts, to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland.
The letter calls on FIFA president Gianni Infantino to use a Qatar legacy fund to compensate workers or their families directly, while the shirts — delivered to FIFA’s official museum in Zurich — echo the blue workwear and yellow vests worn by many of the migrant workers who built stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar.
World Cup 2022 migrant worker diaries: ‘We have not been treated like humans’
“This meeting offers another opportunity for FIFA to make amends and establish a firm plan and timetable to directly and quickly recompense workers and their families, who suffered shocking human rights abuses to deliver a World Cup that was built on their sacrifice,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice.
“While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, there is no doubt FIFA has the resources to help mend these injustices and provide life-changing support to workers and their families.
“By presenting the football shirts at the FIFA museum in Zurich, we are demanding that the organisation recognises the sacrifice of migrant workers, and that their outstanding demands for compensation are met.
“The time has come for FIFA to properly address its responsibilities rather than merely passing the buck to Qatar. It is past time for football’s leaders to make a clear promise to mistreated workers.”
FIFA’s misleading statements on migrant workers
On the eve of the tournament in November 2022, FIFA pledged to establish a legacy fund, but did not commit to using it to provide support directly to workers.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced plans for a permanent International Labour Organization (ILO) office in Qatar’s capital, Doha, but said calls from the West for a compensation fund for the families of workers who had died were unnecessary, as the Qataris had already established a workers’ support and insurance fund.
A FIFA spokesperson had told The Athletic after Infantino’s comments ahead of the tournament that its position remained that “workers who suffered harm in the context of its operations should receive adequate remediation”.
The Qatari government has previously told The Athletic: “Over the past two decades, Qatar has transformed its labour system, establishing itself as the region’s proud leader when it comes to labour rights. We have taken extensive action — working in conjunction with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other partners – to improve the lives of all workers in Qatar.”
But the Gulf nation’s government has remained silent over a state investigation into the death of a Filipino migrant worker during the 2022 World Cup.
The Athletic reported in December that a man had died while carrying out repairs at a resort used as a training base for the Saudi Arabia team at last year’s tournament. Despite repeated requests, the government has yet to clarify the investigation’s status more than two months after the incident.
(Photo: Getty Images)