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Friday, December 3, 2021

France backs World Cup 2022 host Qatar amid calls for boycott


France has affirmed its presence at the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar amid calls by a handful of countries efforts to boycott the tournament.

French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët confirmed his country’s national team will be in Qatar for the tournament if it qualifies, despite boycott efforts by European minnows Norway and a small number of other nations, AFP reported.

“Qatar was appointed by responsible persons a long time ago, we will not question the organisation a year in advance. France will be in Qatar when it qualifies,” Graët said to AFP on Monday.

The comments come as groups in Germany, Denmark and Norway continue a campaign to get their national teams to boycott the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar over migrant rights violations in the Gulf state.

The latest boycott effort has come from Germany, where the ProFans alliance has urged the German Football Association (DFB) to avoid participating in the tournament.

“There is nothing that could justify accepting the human rights violations in Qatar, even knowingly and approvingly by participating in the tournament,” read a statement from ProFans, according to local German news.

This follows another boycott attempt from Norway, where a growing number of football clubs are calling on the Norwegian Football Federation to pull out of next year’s World Cup,  should they qualify for the tournament. The federation is due to have a meeting on March 14 to discuss these proposals.

The latest Norwegian club to call for boycott is Rosenborg BK and joins Tromsø, Odds Ballklub, Strømsgodset, Viking and Brann.

Meanwhile, petitions have circulated in Denmark calling on FIFA to change the 2022 World Cup hosting country, and to force Qatar “to abolish its migrant work sponsorship program (kafala system).”

If the petition receives 50,000 signatures by June 8, it will have to be debated in Danish parliament, according to The Independent.

However, the petition, which has now been closed, does not take the new labour reforms introduced by Qatar into consideration. Despite it being closed to new signatories, news outlets continue to report on the petition.

Read also: Dutch postponement of Qatar trade mission: political or humanitarian?

Earlier this month, a Dutch sports and business trade mission to Qatar was postponed due to “concerns” over the mistreatment of construction workers. A number of Dutch political parties have been urging The Hague and King Willem-Alexander to avoid the 2022 event.

This decision cited a report published by The Guardian that was criticised for providing misleading statistics on the number of migrant worker deaths at World Cup 2022 construction sites.

However, analysts told Doha News that the timing of this postponement seemed questionable, suggesting that the move might be politically motivated,

Critics have slammed the boycott calls as politically motivated and possibly even racist, noting the fact that none of these countries called for similar action against the previous three World Cups, all of whom hosted by nations that have grave human rights abuses.

In the case of Russia 2018, the bodies of dead workers were even found in one of the finals’ stadiums, though there were no calls from European capitals to shun the tournament.

Misleading reports

In February, The Guardian published a report headlined “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup.”

“More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar” since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the report stated.

This implied that the deaths took place on 2022 project sites and were due to direct work-related causes.

Read also: Misleading: Critics slam ‘deceptive’ Guardian report on migrant worker deaths

However, the report did not source any official medical records explaining the circumstances of the deaths.

The article also read that an average of 12 migrant workers from the south Asian nations have died each week since December of 2010. These statistics that were obtained from the embassies not only include migrant workers, but the total number of all deaths of nationals of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, regardless of occupation.

In response, Qatari authorities said while every live matters, the number of deaths is proportionate to the size of the population in the Gulf state.

New labour reforms and services

In 2020, Qatar introduced a series of historic labour laws that aimed to better the conditions of migrant workers in the country.

These include a new minimum wage of QR 1000 a month, the abolition of the No Objection Certificate (NOC) that allows workers to change jobs without permission from their past employers, and the dismantling of the controversial kafala system.

Read also: Know your rights: WhatsApp service launched for Qatar’s labour laws

Earlier this month, Qatar also introduced a new WhatsApp service that provides information on labour laws and regulations to assist workers to understand their rights. The service provides information in six different languages, including Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali and Malayalam, all widely spoken languages among Qatar’s migrant worker populations.

More recently, Qatar and the United Nations signed an agreement to establish a new UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Doha that aims to defend humanitarian rights and facilitate sustainable solutions.

Dialogue over boycott?

In a recent exclusive interview with Doha News, former head of the International Labour Organisation office in Qatar Houtan Homayounpour discussed the importance of dialogue over boycotts.

“I do not believe in boycotts. I think really engagement, dialogue is much more effective. You need to be at the table to be able to contribute to positive change,” he said.

Read also: Qatar has come too far to give in to pressure from business community

The senior UN official also highlighted the importance of joint efforts to find solutions.

“From a common sense point of view, for me personally, a boycott is not really the most effective way to contribute to change,” he said.

“If you’re not part of the discussion, if you’re not a part of the dialogue, then you’re not part of the solution. You’re basically standing outside on the sidelines and really not contributing to improving the situation,” he added.

While more work needs to be done, Qatar’s authorities should be recognised for the work that has gone into making these changes, he said.

Meanwhile, the United States embassy on Wednesday said it values its partnership with the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor & Social Affairs in support of these reforms.

The U.S. Embassy values its partnership with @ADLSAQa and supports Qatar’s new minimum wage legislation, the first of its kind in the region” a tweet read.

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