Justice for migrant workers: Their rights are not for sale

 (Photo: www.forbes.com/ David Ramos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images /FIFA VIA GETTY IMAGES)

GENEVA, 14 DECEMBER 2022 - BWI is shocked by media reports revealing a major, off-the field story on the World Cup in Qatar with charges of corruption involving members of the European Parliament and others.

The charges are serious. BWI condemns any form of corruption. No compromise. It is always extremely serious when those with public responsibilities are charged with corruption. It is even more outrageous when those who are allegedly bribed are – for declared political positions or duties – claiming to stand on workers’ side. In this case, corruption impacts even harder on those who are already exploited, vulnerable, abused and invisible in our societies, the migrant workers in Qatar, making them increasingly weak and defenceless.  

The corruption charges will be resolved, in time, by an independent judiciary regardless of the wishes of prosecutors, the accused, governments or political parties. 

If confirmed in court, such a decision would send a clear and powerful message. Anybody who has sold out the human rights of migrant workers, whether they are politicians, trade union officials, or civil society representatives, must pay for their offenses.

For more than a decade, BWI has been standing with migrant workers in Qatar in their struggle to defend their rights and interests and participate in charting their own destinies. 

BWI has recognised progress made in written laws and regulations and with the reform of the kafala system. It has also rung alarm bells on the lack of sustainable implementation. Rampant wage abuses and continued breaches of the labour laws reported from the ground reflect a power imbalance at the workplace with employers having too much and workers having too little. BWI has made clear that any attempt to enforce the laws will not be credible without independent workers’ organisations and trade unions. 

Since July 2021, BWI, joined by the world football players’ organisation FIFPRO, has been calling for further steps to be taken by the Qatari government to protect human rights, including the fundamental rights of workers to organise and bargain, and the establishment of a Migrant Workers’ Centre to address current and future injustices. 

In May 2022, BWI joined a broader coalition asking to fund a comprehensive remediation programme to address abuses suffered by migrant workers in the preparation for the Tournament. Both initiatives have received wide support from football associations, political leaders, sponsors, and athletes. 

However, only one week before the final whistle blows, calls for a Migrant Workers’ Centre and for a compensation fund continue to be met by silence, by misleading words or by falsehoods and empty promises. 

The promise of any improvement and of a World Cup legacy will not be kept as long as migrant workers are not listened to, have no voice because they have no representation and cannot speak without fear in the face of injustice and violations of their rights.

BWI will continue its journey, consistently and coherently, as long as their fundamental rights are not recognised. But a decent work legacy is a shared responsibility.

Therefore, we appeal to stand with migrant workers and to support BWI’s demands to the Qatari government and to FIFA to:

  • Establish and recognise a Migrant Workers’ Centre as a safe haven for workers where they can receive assistance, education, speak without fear and help each other. 
  • Establish a remediation fund to compensate any worker who suffered injustice. 

We owe it to the migrant workers: they have made this World Cup possible. Their fight is our fight and the fight of all who seek justice.

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