European football associations call for FIFA action on Qatar

LONDON: A group of major European national football associations have demanded that FIFA meets its commitment in urging Qatar to ensure workers’ rights ahead of the World Cup.

The 10-country group — which includes the FAs of England and Wales — urged FIFA to encourage the establishment of a workers’ rights institution in Qatar and an effective compensation fund for migrant workers.

The FAs of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland are also part of the group.

“We acknowledge, and welcome, as we have done in the past, that significant progress has been made by Qatar, particularly with regards to the rights of migrant workers, with the impact of legislative changes demonstrated in the International Labour Organisation’s recent reports,” the FAs said in a statement.

“We welcome the assurances given by the Qatari Government and by FIFA regarding the safety, security and inclusion of all fans who travel to the World Cup.

“However, embracing diversity and tolerance also means supporting human rights. Human rights are universal and they apply everywhere.

“We will continue to support the momentum for positive, progressive change and continue to advocate for a conclusive outcome and update on the two key outstanding issues we have been discussing with FIFA for a long time.

“FIFA has repeatedly committed to deliver concrete answers on these issues — the compensation fund for migrant workers, and the concept of a migrant workers center to be created in Doha — and we will continue to press for these to be delivered.

“We believe in the power of football to make further positive and credible contributions to progressive sustainable change in the world.”

The move comes as Qatar fires back at critics over its handling of the tournament, with the country’s foreign minister labeling people who “cannot accept a small country from the Middle East” hosting the World Cup as “arrogant.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Sky News: “Preaching from a distance is not a solution.”

He described criticism in the media of Qatar’s hosting as “misinformation,” adding: “Calling to boycott the World Cup, or those who are not coming to the World Cup, it’s their decision at the end of the day.

“But why deprive the people and the public from attending and enjoying the World Cup? What kind of message are they sending to their own public? What about their own problems within their countries, which they are turning a blind eye to?

“Honestly, not me or the Qatari people only, but there’s a lot of people from around the world who are just seeing this as a sense of arrogance, a sense of people who cannot accept that a small country from the Middle East has won the bid to host the World Cup.”

During the Sky News interview, Al-Thani was questioned over foreign migrant deaths during Qatar’s stadium construction program, as well as the efficacy of the country’s compensation fund for workers.

He described the fund as having been “working very effectively in the last couple of years,” adding: “Already around $350 million has been dispersed the last years for the workers and this is proven to be effective.

“If there are any issues or gaps with the execution of the current fund they should come and talk to us to improve it, not to duplicate.”

In a bid to quell tensions ahead of the opening World Cup match on Nov. 20, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Secretary-General Fatma Samoura last week appealed to all countries taking part in the tournament to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

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