Case brought by Netherlands Trade Union Confederation
FIFA made aware of claim on October 10
World football governing body FIFA is facing legal action in Switzerland over allegations it has been jointly responsible for the mistreatment of migrant workers who are working on projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Paperwork was filed by the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) on behalf of a Bangladeshi migrant worker, Nadim Sharaful Alam, in a case first highlighted by the Guardian in October.
“The Swiss court is asked to rule that FIFA acted wrongfully by selecting Qatar for the World Cup 2022 without demanding the assurance that Qatar observes fundamental human and labor rights of migrant construction workers, including the abolition of the Kafala system,” read a FNV statement, referring to the scheme which marries an immigrant employee to the employer.
“The Swiss court is furthermore requested to rule that, in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, FIFA ensures that the rights of migrant construction workers are safeguarded, by insisting on adequate and effective labor reforms in Qatar, that are actually implemented.”
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The FNV has also confirmed that the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress and the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation are supporting the action.
Later this month a new Kafala law is scheduled to come into effect, which is designed to loosen regulations surrounding some residents changing their jobs and leaving Qatar.
‘Bringing people together’
FIFA was first notified about the claim on October 10 but rejected the allegations. On Thursday, FIFA said it had not been served by a court with any claim related to this matter.
Qatar’s organizing committee didn’t immediately respond when contacted by CNN for comment, but earlier this month its Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi said the 2022 World Cup “is a bridge, to create a platform to bring people together.”
He added: “To do that, it’s very important to meet your critics, to be able to look at a person eye to eye and respond and address the concerns they may have.
“A lot of them are based on misinformation, once you’re able to approach them with facts and show them where they are misinformed.”
In March 2016, FIFA’s head of sustainability Federico Addiechi, said the organization “is fully committed to do its utmost to ensure that human rights are respected on all Fifa World Cup sites and operations and services directly related to the Fifa World Cup,” after a damaging report into the plight of migrant workers by Amnesty International was revealed.
Amnesty’s 80-page report, titled “The ugly side of the beautiful game: Labor exploitation on a Qatar World Cup venue,” was based on interviews in the year leading up to February 2016 with 234 male migrants working either in construction at the Khalifa Stadium – expected to host a World Cup semifinal – or in landscaping at the Aspire Zone Complex, where top European soccer clubs such as Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have trained.
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The abuses found include: workers living in “squalid and cramped accommodation;” employers confiscating workers’ passports; workers being threatened for complaining about working conditions; workers having to pay as much as $4,300 to recruiters in their home country to get a job in Qatar and some not being paid for months.
However Qatar said the “tone of Amnesty International’s latest assertions paint a misleading picture.”
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Qatar’s migrant workers, mostly from South Asia, make up more than 90% of the country’s workforce.
Building for the 2022 World Cup is expected to peak in 2017, when the current workforce of 4,000 migrants on World Cup sites will jump to 36,000, according to FIFA.
Aleks Klosok contributed to this report.