Amnesty International calls for $440 million compensation fund for migrant workers ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

A Just Remedy

Amnesty International calls for $440 million compensation fund for migrant workers ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

Lusail Stadium, the largest host venue of FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. (Visit Qatar/Unsplash)

Six months ahead of the November 21 opening of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, London-headquartered international human rights organization Amnesty International has released a scathing 48-page report and accompanying open letter imploring FIFA leadership to set aside no less than $440 million in funding that would “provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses” during the lead-up to the championship.

Per Amnesty International, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have suffered human rights abuses in the decade-plus-long lead-up to Qatar 2022, namely during the construction of the global sporting event’s marquee stadiums (eight in total, both newly built and renovated), hotels, and transportation infrastructure. Although significant labor reforms were introduced in 2018 enforcement has remained lax and, as a result, abuses have continued, according to the organization.

Long subject to criticism from human rights groups—with Amnesty International chief among them—over inhumane and frequently perilous conditions that have resulted in the deaths of a reported 6,500 migrant workers ahead of Qatar 2022, the Qatari government also made considerable improvements to its Supreme Committee’s Worker Welfare Standards in 2014 as a means of better safeguarding and compensating workers, including the introduction of a minimum wage. However, Amnesty International has claimed that “these standards are not universally respected and only cover a minority of the hundreds of thousands of workers on World Cup-related projects.”

As previously reported by AN, the Qatari government and tournament organizers have categorically denied reports that widespread abuses persist and that the number of deaths among workers building the stadiums and major projects ahead of Qatar 2022 is in the thousands; Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has stated that the number is dramatically less, claiming that there have been just 38 worker deaths since 2015 and 34 of them have been classified as “non-work related.”

The amount to be earmarked for the proposed “comprehensive remediation program,” which Amnesty International has urged FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino to establish alongside the Qatari government, is equal to the prize money that will be awarded to the World Cup winner at the conclusion of the championship. FIFA’s anticipated revenue from the forthcoming World Cup is $6 billion; Amnesty International said that the $440 million remediation fund “is entirely justifiable given the scale of abuses that have been suffered, and represents a small fraction” of the revenue that FIFA is expected to bring in during the month-long tournament.

Amnesty International referred to the figure as one that is “likely to be the minimum necessary to cover an array of compensation costs and to support initiatives to protect workers’ rights in the future,” adding that the “total sum for reimbursing unpaid wages, the extortionate recruitment fees paid by hundreds of thousands of workers, and compensation for injuries and deaths could end up being higher, and should be evaluated as part of a participatory process with unions, civil society organizations, the International Labour Organization and others.”

“Given the history of human rights abuses in the country, FIFA knew⁠—or should have known⁠—the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in a statement. “Despite this, there was not a single mention of workers or human rights in its evaluation of the Qatari bid and no conditions were put in place on labour protections.

“While it may be too late to erase the suffering of past abuses, FIFA and Qatar can and should act to provide redress and prevent further abuses from taking place. Providing compensation to workers who gave so much to make the tournament happen, and taking steps to make sure such abuses never happen again, could represent a major turning point in FIFA’s commitment to respect human rights,” Callamard added.

Joining Amnesty International as signatories of the open letter to FIFA’s Infantino, which can be read in full here, include a range of organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Football Supporters Europe, FairSquare, and Building and Wood Workers’ International.

As reported by CNN, both FIFA and the Qatari government have responded to the new report and letter published by Amnesty International, with the former noting that it is “currently assessing the programme proposed by Amnesty International” and that it has instituted an “unprecedented due diligence process in relation to the protection of workers involved” including compensating those due just compensation. FIFA also pointed out that the report covers “a wide range of non-FIFA World Cup-specific public infrastructure built since 2010.”  In response to the report, Qatar’s Ministry of Labour said in a statement obtained by CNN that the country’s “labour reforms will continue to take place at a pace that ensures holistic and lasting change.”

“The new report undermines much of the goodwill that has been generated,” the statement added. “Engagement will always yield better results than condemnation, especially when they are unreasonably demanded.”

AN has profiled several of the stadiums completed for FIFA World Cup 2022 including the Fosters + Partners– and Populous-designed Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will host the final match and is by far the largest of the bunch with a 80,000-person capacity. Although of note is Zaha Hadid Architects’ controversy-embroiled Al-Janoub Stadium, a 40,000-capacity venue with a nautical form inspired by traditional Dhow boats. It opened in 2019 as Qatar 2022’s second-completed stadium behind the revamped Khalifa International Stadium. More recently, Qatar debuted the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum adjacent to Khalifa International Stadium. Beyond Qatar 2022, the petite but wealthy Persian Gulf country recently announced plans to building a trio of major museums in the capital city of Doha designed by the likes of ELEMENTAL, Herzog & de Meuron, and OMA.