Middle East

Fifa pressed over Qatar World Cup workers' conditions

A construction worker pushing a wheelbarrow in the financial district of Doha, Qatar (file photo)
Image caption Much of the construction industry in Qatar relies on migrant workers

Trade union activists are lobbying football's governing body Fifa in Zurich to highlight what they say are poor working conditions in Qatar.

Last year Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

The Gulf state's preparations for the tournament include building nine football stadiums in the next 10 years, using primarily migrant labour.

The activists say they will campaign for the tournament to be moved unless Fifa presses for better conditions.

"Fifa has the power to make labour rights a requirement of the Qatari authorities who are hosting a World Cup," Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) told the Reuters news agency.

Trade unionists say Fifa has the power to impose decent working standards on Qatar, in the same way that it has introduced a code of working practice on footballs bearing the Fifa logo, in a bid to prevent child labour.

An ITUC survey published earlier this year of migrant workers in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates said many workers endured "inhuman" conditions.

"[Qatar's] ability to deliver the World Cup is totally dependent on severe exploitation of migrant labour, which we believe to be barely above forced labour conditions," said Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the Building Workers International, in May.

The 2022 World Cup will be the first time the tournament is held in the Middle East.

Some critics have also said Qatar is an unsuitable location for the tournament, given its current lack of sporting infrastructure and the fact that summer temperatures there can reach 50C.

The ITUC said Fifa had agreed to meet union officials after the publication of the report on migrant workers. They are expected to hand Fifa President Sepp Blatter a letter on Thursday about their campaign, Reuters said.

Over 90% of Qatar's workforce is made up of foreign migrant workers, many of them from South and East Asia.

Earlier this month Nepal's Department of Foreign Employment told local media that Qatar had become the biggest foreign employer of Nepalese workers, largely due to World Cup-related construction projects.

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