Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
FIFA partner Visa has expressed its concern over reports on the conditions of migrant workers building the facilities to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and has urged FIFA to take action. ‘We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions’, read a statement from the payments company. ‘We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organisations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved’.
Visa extended its partnership with FIFA by eight years in January 2014, which means it is scheduled to be one of five FIFA partners in place for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The other four are Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai-Kia and Gazprom. Visa’s statement was issued on 19 May, a day after the International Trade Union Confederation, backed by sportswear brand Skins, launched a campaign to challenge the alleged human rights abuses in Qatar. The campaign involved writing to eight FIFA sponsors, accusing them of contravening their values and principles by financially supporting FIFA, thereby providing ‘implicit support’ for the alleged human rights abuses in Qatar. Each FIFA sponsor was also been asked to support the establishment of an independent FIFA reform commission.
Visa’s statement also came a day after Qatar detained BBC journalists for allegedly trespassing ahead of an organised tour of labour accommodation and villages. The BBC has since denied all the claims made by the Government Communications Office of the State of Qatar. ‘We are pleased that the BBC team has been released, but we deplore the fact that they were detained in the first place’, read a statement. ‘Their presence in Qatar was no secret and they were engaged in a perfectly proper piece of journalism. The Qatari authorities have made a series of conflicting allegations to justify the detention, all of which the team rejects. We are pressing the Qatari authorities for a full explanation and the return of the confiscated equipment.’ FIFA has also pledged to investigate the situation.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International published a new briefing on 21 May arguing that only limited progress has been made on promises to respond to nine ‘fundamental’ migrant labour rights issues identified by Amnesty a year ago. ‘The briefing – “Promising little, delivering less: Qatar and migrant labour abuse ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup” – provides a “scorecard” that rates the authorities’ response to nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues identified by Amnesty’, read a statement. ‘A year later, only limited progress has been achieved on five of these issues, in four areas the authorities have failed to make any improvements at all’.
A BBC report today interviewed some of the migrant workers, and their statements appear to contradict claims from the Qatari government about the ‘progress it is making’ on migrant labour rights. The workers interviewed in the BBC report describe long working hours, unsanitary living conditions, dangerous working conditions, low wages, issues with payment and confiscation of passports.
“Without prompt action, the pledges Qatar made last year are at serious risk of being dismissed as a mere public relations stunt to ensure the Gulf state can cling on to the 2022 World Cup”, said Amnesty International Gulf Migrant Rights Researcher Mustafa Qadri in Amnesty International’s statement. “The reality is that more than a year and a half after Amnesty highlighted rampant exploitation of migrants – little has been done to address the root causes of this abuse. We are one year closer to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup – time for changes to be implemented is running out. With Qatar’s construction boom continuing and the migrant worker population set to expand to 2.5 million, the need for urgent reform is more pressing than ever.”
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