FIFA negotiating special fund for migrant workers in Qatar

Rights groups have stepped up pressure on FIFA in recent weeks to set up a special fund to compensate workers, mainly from South Asia, who were killed, injured, or lost wages on construction projects.

FILE PHOTO: FIFA president Gianni Infantino at Neo Quimica Arena, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

FILE PHOTO: FIFA president Gianni Infantino at Neo Quimica Arena, Sao Paulo, Brazil. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Rights groups have stepped up pressure on FIFA in recent weeks to set up a special fund to compensate workers, mainly from South Asia, who were killed, injured, or lost wages on construction projects.

FIFA's president sought Monday to overcome lingering doubts about Qatar's rights record ahead of the World Cup as the global body confirmed it is negotiating a fund for migrant workers who died or were injured.

Gianni Infantino said "Qatar has delivered amazing" results with the multi-billion dollar stadiums, metro system and huge construction projects prepared for the tournament that is expected to bring one million fans to the Gulf state from November 20.

But rights groups have stepped up pressure on FIFA in recent weeks to set up a special fund to compensate workers, mainly from South Asia, who were killed, injured, or lost wages on construction projects.

Repeated concerns have also been expressed, particularly in Europe, over the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.

Asked about a fund, FIFA's senior spokesman Bryan Swanson told a press conference that the global body was talking with the Qatari government, the UN's labour agency and international unions. He promised an announcement "in due course".

"FIFA remains in positive ongoing dialogue with the International Labour Organisation and the International Trade Union Confederation and all relevant authorities in Qatar over initiatives that will benefit migrant workers in Qatar long after the final game of the World Cup," Swanson said.

Amnesty International and other groups have demanded that FIFA set up a $450 million fund for migrant workers and their families who suffered during the decade of construction leading up to the World Cup.

Under pressure from international groups, Qatar has embarked on major changes to improve conditions for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers on the huge construction projects that have transformed the energy-rich state.

It has already started a fund for workers who were not paid wages after losing their jobs.

In a video message to the press conference, Infantino praised Qatar's "groundbreaking reforms that in the past years and in the years to come are changing the lives of thousands of workers for the better".

He added that the World Cup should be "a tournament of peace and unity -– one that brings the world together after some difficult times.

"And let me repeat it clearly, everyone will be welcomed to the tournament regardless of their origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality."

Asked why FIFA had not responded to criticism in Europe, FIFA's World Cup chief operating officer, Colin Smith, said the global body had always been "clear" that "we believe in dialogue over boycott, we have seen the power and the strength of the World Cup as a catalyst for change in the region."

Smith said 2.89 million of the 3.2 million tickets had now been sold while a record 240,000 hospitality packages have been bought.

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