Boris Johnson meets Emir of Qatar at Downing Street
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The Fife Ethics and Regulations Watch (FERW) has issued five demands to Fifa and Qatar ahead of the first match on November 20 when the host country plays Ecuador. It comes amid increasing concerns that the final rush to prepare for the tournament could see migrant labourers forced to work in intolerable heat and put their lives at risk. The concerns may overshadow a glittering international competition which will feature some of the world’s most famous sports stars like Harry Kane, Lionel Messi, Kevin De Bruyne and Neymar.
The competition has been controversial since it was first awarded the tournament in 2010 with allegations of corruption and bribery at Fifa over that tournament and the decision to give Russia the 2018 World Cup.
The investigations into this and other issues eventually saw Fifa President Sepp Blatter forced out and replaced by Gianni Infantino.
The country’s extreme climate which sees temperatures saw to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer means that it will also have to be played in the winter in the middle of the European league timetables.
But the biggest concerns have been over the use of what amounts to slave labour with medieval migration laws which reportedly sees workers lose their passports and forced to work in intolerable conditions.
Fifa President Mr Infantino addressed the issues in May when he admitted 6,000 workers may have died in Qatar.
He said: “Of course, FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world.
“But thanks to FIFA, thanks to football we have been able to address the status of all the 1.5 million workers, working in Qatar.”
With 100 days to go, FERW has claimed that Fifa has “conspicuously failed” to ensure proper standards and it issued five demands:
- Fifa should ensure that last minute building spurts to hit deadlines do not put workers at increased safety risks, already reported to be high and which may now get more people killed.
- Employees should be duly and promptly paid, and their passports readily handed back by employees at the end of their contract rather than being left exposed to contractual blackmail.
- Local authorities should be instructed to properly investigate cases of malpractice that have already been reported.
- Staff staying on to help with running the games should be assured proper working conditions to ensure there are no more heat fatalities.
- And under pressure from FIFA through the Qatari Government, there needs to be a proper accounting of all the deaths that have occurred, across the whole of the construction industry preparing for the games, with due compensation paid by employers where malpractice has occurred.
Despite the concerns, an investigation by the Sunday Express, which accompanied FERW on a delegation to Qatar, found that the Arab state has made significant progress as a result of winning the World Cup.
The visit in November 2021 showed that further progress is needed but the country had put in place new measures to end the practice of forcing employees to stay with one employer or force them to remain in the country.
A reporting process for accidents , injuries and deaths had been put in place although they still could not give an exact figure.
And there was also a blacklisting system for companies which did not apply to the new standards.
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But FERW said much more needs to be done and said this is Fifa’s last chance to get a grip on the competition preparations.
Speaking on behalf of FIFA Ethics & Regulations Watch, spokesman Lee Rotherham said,
“With a hundred days to go, FIFA has a last chance to step up to its moral responsibilities.
“Conditions have clearly varied tremendously. While there have been good employers, there have also been major injustices, some leading to deaths. The truth behind this remains hidden.
“As the deadline approaches, work pressures will now only grow. That means a surge of risk at the workplace. It also brings us close to the end point involving an unscrupulous opportunity for ripping staff off afterwards.
“So far, Fifa has proved to be a poor linesman. It now has a last opportunity to act.”
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