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Amnesty International says ‘abuses persist’ and ‘too little has been done’ to protect workers after Qatar World Cup

By Thomas Schlachter, CNN

(CNN) — Leading human rights organization Amnesty International claims that the legacy for migrant workers in Qatar following the 2022 World Cup is in “serious peril” as the one-year anniversary of the tournament nears.

In a briefing titled “A Legacy in Jeopardy,” Amnesty International said that it “finds that just as the glare of the world’s media spotlight dimmed, so too did the [Qatar] government’s push for fair conditions and decent work for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who helped realize Qatar’s World Cup dream and will continue to keep the country moving for many years to come.”

In a statement sent to CNN, Qatar’s International Media Office responded to Amnesty International’s findings, stating the “positive impact of Qatar’s labor reforms is evident for all to see.”

The statement read: “The World Cup accelerated labor reforms in Qatar, creating a significant and lasting tournament legacy. Qatar now leads the region on workers’ rights and labor reforms, setting an example for other countries on how a system can be successfully overhauled.

“The commitment to strengthen Qatar’s labor system and safeguard workers’ rights was never an initiative tied to the World Cup and was always intended to continue long after the tournament ended.”

Amnesty International said that some previous issues had been improved – workers were able to leave the country and are more freely able to change jobs. However, the organization maintained that, despite FIFA and Qatar’s claims of progress, not enough has been done for workers’ rights in Qatar.

“Reforms belatedly introduced and weakly enforced by the Qatari government, and FIFA’s introduction of a human right policy in 2017, failed to prevent widespread abuses occurring in the lead up to and during the tournament, and abuses continue today,” the human rights organization added.

In the build-up to last year’s World Cup, the organizers received widespread criticism for their treatment of migrant workers.

In 2021, The Guardian reported that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.

The report did not connect all 6,500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the man in charge of leading Qatar’s preparations, told CNN’s Becky Anderson that The Guardian’s 6,500 figure was a “sensational headline” that was misleading and that the report lacked context.

In a 2021 report, Amnesty International said that Qatari authorities have not investigated “thousands” of deaths of migrant workers over the past decade “despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions.” That these deaths are not being recorded as work-related prevents families from receiving compensation, the advocacy group states.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic Social Justice, believes that Qatar “must renew efforts to improve workers’ rights.”

He added: “Qatar’s continued failure to properly enforce or strengthen its pre-World Cup labor reforms puts any potential legacy for workers in serious peril.

“The government must urgently renew its commitment to protecting workers, while both FIFA and Qatar should agree to remediation plans for all those who suffered.”

The organization said that it is unaware of improvements in investigating workers’ deaths, that wages continue to be stolen from workers by employers and that migrant workers’ rights continue to be abused.

Amnesty International also reiterated its 10-point plan which was published in the build-up to the 2022 World Cup. The plan includes calls to end forced labor, allow trade unions and to compensate historic abuses.

In support of Qatar, FIFA added that it is “undeniable that significant progress has taken place,” in a statement sent to CNN.

But soccer’s international governing body admitted: “It is equally clear that the enforcement of such transformative reforms takes time and that heightened efforts are needed to ensure the reforms benefit all workers in the country.”

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