It has been well documented that some 1,200 migrant workers have lost their lives while preparing for the Qatar World Cup in 2022. However the Qatar Ministry of Health has estimated that there could be 7,000 deaths before a ball is even kicked because of unsafe working conditions.
Fifa has the power to put pressure on the Qatari government to ensure that proper health and safety and work conditions are applied, though football’s world governing body has continually ignored calls from the ITUC, Unions and Amnesty International to strip Qatar of the tournament.
It is making no effort to reform, Qatar continues with the Kafala system which binds people in jobs for five years, unable to quit and go to another employer or even just to leave and go back to their families. In addition to this the average wage is 45p an hour and living conditions are overcrowded and dangerous.
I am not sure what Fifa stand to gain from refusing to act. If Fifa doesn’t take action in Qatar, as the only remaining agency able to compel the Qataris — who clearly have no interest in reforming themselves — then they will have blood on their hands.
On Saturday, I was proud to stand alongside trade unions and Newcastle and Brentford fans who joined together for Qatar World Cup workers. While the fans may not have much in common on match day, they all agree that nobody should die for football.
As Qatar prepares for the World Cup, we can’t turn a blind eye to the treatment of workers there. They face injury, miserly pay, and are prevented from leaving the country without their bosses’ permission. FIFA and Qatar must act to improve workers’ rights before the World Cup.
Also supporting the campaign on Saturday was the Football Supporters' Federation Chief Executive Kevin Miles who I think summed it up perfectly:
“We speak about respect a lot in football. But where is the respect for the workers in Qatar who make the World Cup possible? Fans don't want a tournament built on exploitation and death. Fans, unions and campaigners will continue to speak out. It’s time for FIFA and Qatar to listen.”
Regional Secretary Northern TUC
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