Amnesty International is calling on FIFA to apply more pressure on 2022 World Cup host Qatar to improve conditions of workers.
Just days after Qatar’s historic new labour reforms came into effect, leading rights NGO Amnesty International called on football governing body FIFA to apply more pressure on Qatar to improve the conditions of labourers in the country.
In a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Amnesty asked the footballing official “to take urgent and concrete action to ensure the tournament leaves a positive and lasting legacy for all migrant workers in Qatar, and does not give rise to further labour abuse.”
“FIFA has a responsibility to ensure human rights are respected in the context of preparing for and carrying out the tournament,” the letter added.
The NGO also urged Qatar to “fulfil its programme of labour reforms before the World Cup kicks off” and cited the poor implementation of Qatar’s new labour reforms as a matter of concern.
The report was published just days after Qatar’s historic labour reforms came into effect on Saturday, introducing the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage.
In addition to the minimum monthly basic wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals QR (275 USD), the new legislation stipulates that employers must pay allowances of at least QR 300 for food and QAR 500 for housing, should employers not provide workers with these directly.
As part of the major labour reform agenda, Qatar has drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors, according to an announcement made by the Government Communications Office (GCO).
Employers who pay their staff less than the minimum wage will face one-year in jail and a QR 10,000 fine.
The GCO also said that since the reforms and new minimum wage were announced in September 2020, some 5,252 companies with a total of 222,042 workers have already updated their payroll systems.
These labour reforms also include the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system, becoming the first country in the region to do so.
Workers are no longer required to obtain an exit permit to leave the country, or a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to request permission from former employers to change jobs.
“Over 100,000 workers have changed jobs since the NOC requirement was removed six months ago. Thousands of workers have benefited from the removal of NOCs by severing long-term contractual ties and diversifying their skills in Qatar’s labour market,” the statement said.
The Amnesty report also tapped into a recent Shura Council meeting that saw the advisory body put forward a set of recommendations which would have undone much of the progress brought about by reforms and re-imposed restrictions on the rights of workers to change jobs and/or leave the country.
However, an official Qatari source assured AFP that these recommendations will not be accepted.
Prior to the publishing of the Amnesty report on Friday, Infantino assured protecting human rights is a top priority for FIFA.
“We need to be fair there (in Qatar) and admit a lot of progress has happened… in the conditions of the workers. Of course more can be done everywhere, always – even in Switzerland,” said the FIFA president.
Similar sentiments were made by senior International Labour Organisation (ILO) official, Houtan Homayounpour who said while more work needs to be done, Qatar’s authorities should be recognised for the work that has gone into making these changes.