Expressing concern over the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers, the European Parliament has passed an emergency resolution condemning the widespread abuse of these expats, and urged FIFA to “send a clear and strong message to Qatar to prevent the preparations for the 2022 football World Cup being overshadowed by allegations of forced labor.”
Thursday’s resolution, however, stops short of calling on Qatar to abolish its restrictive kafala system, to the disappointment of some Parliament members.
The condemnation is the latest example of growing international attention on Qatar over its labor record. It follows a recent visit to Qatar from FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who had praised the country for its efforts to improve workers’ rights.
It also comes on the heels of a new Amnesty International report detailing the dismal living and working conditions of many in Qatar’s construction sector.
In a statement, FIFA said it “welcomed” the resolution, but added that change will require a joint effort:
In order to achieve a sustainable improvement of working conditions in Qatar and the wider region, a joint effort by FIFA, the business sector, the international political community and the Qatari authorities is required. FIFA remains open to cooperate with all relevant bodies and authorities to tackle this issue and to ensure that the protection of migrant workers continues to be addressed with urgency.
Meanwhile, Qatar has called the resolution “premature.” An unnamed spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that allegations of abuse of migrant workers here are “exaggerated,” but still pledged to take them seriously.
“These evaluations exaggerate the allegations reported in press articles. The Qatari government seriously takes allegations on working conditions in construction sites” linked to the World Cup.
The spokesperson added that an independent review is currently in place to evaluate the true state of Qatar’s migrants by international law firm DLA Piper.