LONDON: A letter backed by a petition signed by more than a million people has been delivered to world football governing body FIFA demanding that it compensate migrant workers who suffered human rights abuses during preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The letter and custom-designed football shirts were handed over to the organization ahead of its annual conference in Rwanda on March 16, during which it is expected come under pressure from some member nations to remedy what have been described as appalling abuses.
The million-signature petition was collected in 190 countries by Avaaz, a US-based nonprofit organization that promotes global activism, and Amnesty International.
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, said the upcoming meeting offers FIFA officials another opportunity to “establish a firm plan and timetable to directly and quickly recompense workers and their families who suffered shocking human rights abuses to deliver a World Cup that was built on their sacrifice.”
He added: “Workers suffered horrific abuses to help deliver a World Cup tournament that made billions of dollars for FIFA yet brought a human cost of indebted families and workers’ deaths.
“While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, there is no doubt FIFA has the resources to help mend these injustices and provide life-changing support to workers and their families.”
Bieta Andemariam, Avaaz’s US legal director, said the public worldwide recognizes the grave injustice suffered by the migrant workers and “has come together to demand that FIFA take a fraction of the billions of dollars made off the sweat, blood and lives of hundreds of thousands of these victims, and simply give them and their families what they are owed.”
The design of the custom-made football shirts, which were presented to FIFA’s official museum in Zurich, Switzerland, reflects the blue uniforms and yellow vests worn by many of the migrant workers whose rights campaigners say were abused while they built stadiums and infrastructure and provided other services for the World Cup.
“By presenting the football shirts at the FIFA museum in Zurich, we are demanding that the organization recognizes the sacrifice of migrant workers, and that their outstanding demands for compensation are met,” said Cockburn.
Before the World Cup began in November 2022, FIFA pledged to establish a legacy fund but did not commit to using it to provide support or compensation directly to workers. The organization has yet to provide any further details about how the fund will operate.