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Amnesty International promise to keep pressure on FIFA, authorities

18 November 2013 18:43

Amnesty International say they will put consistent pressure on FIFA and relevant authorities to improve working conditions in Qatar.

The human rights watchdog released a damning 169-page report on Sunday slamming the abuses suffered by workers responsible for building stadiums and infrastructure ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the Arab state.

Amnesty stated that the employees are forced to live in "squalid, overcrowded accommodation", while the organisation also cited the fact that many are not permitted by their employer to leave the country as a cause of "severe psychological distress", adding that "some are driven to the brink of suicide".

FIFA responded on Monday, insisting they "share Amnesty International's efforts towards social justice and respect of human rights and dignity", but Amnesty will not rest after their statement, demanding that football's world governing body work immediately with the Qatar government and the businesses involved.

An Amnesty spokesman in Doha told Perform: "We are going to be campaigning on this issue. We are going to be raising these issues and we are not going to let it drop.

"We won't let the pressure drop in terms of the government of Qatar, the business communities who are involved in the construction industry, and FIFA themselves.

"The World Cup being held in Qatar ought to be a catalyst for change. If you are going to hold an event like this in Qatar, then this is the moment to bring in these new standards as the world is watching.

"So use the international scrutiny, use the spotlight and use it to your benefit. At the moment, the spotlight is really just bringing criticism to Qatar. That will be our focus. To push all the players involved in this to do the right thing."

Amnesty also criticised FIFA president Sepp Blatter and cast doubt on his claims that he had personally visited migrant workers and labour camps.

"The World Cup carries FIFA's name. FIFA cannot avoid the fact that it has a responsibility here. I think that demands engagement," the spokesman added.

"The language that we saw from Sepp Blatter in Doha when he was here last week was still talking about this being other people's responsibility.

"It was a bit disappointing that when he came to Qatar and made statements about workers' rights.

"I'm not convinced he met a migrant worker, I'm not convinced he went to a labour camp and actually met people and found out how they live.

"Next time Sepp Blatter comes, I certainly think one of the things he does should be visit migrant workers and talk to them."

Amnesty acknowledged that not all the issues could be solved immediately, but called for the controversial exit permit – which does not allow foreign residents to leave the country unless they have the permission of their employer – to be scrapped as a matter of priority.

"This is an urgent issue," the spokesman explained. "There's a big challenge here and that can't all be solved overnight, clearly.

"They could cancel that requirement (of employer permission to leave) and that would make a really significant difference to a lot of people.

"A lot of the worst situations that we have come across are people who are trapped. They just can't get out. Large groups of workers who have been unpaid for months, they just want to go home.

"In the modern day and age, where Qatar wants to play a role globally, those kinds of situations are untenable. It doesn't work."

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