World Cup 2022: Experts call for a compensation fund for migrant workers in Qatar

The latest Independent Premium webinar concentrated on the always controversial subject of the Qatar World Cup.

A panel of The Independent’s chief football writer Miguel Delaney, Isobel Archer from the Business and Human Rights Centre, Malcolm Bidali, a former security guard who was jailed in Qatar when he spoke out about working conditions and former British diplomat and founder of human rights group FairSquare, James Lynch, took part on a wide ranging discussion about the event which starts in November in the Gulf country.

Scroll down to watch back the full video of the live event

The hour-long chat looked at the many claims around the tournament, including allegations of corruption against Qatar to win the bid in the first place, the continuing debate over workers’ rights, the issue of LGBT and whether it will all leave an indelible stain on the tournament.

Miguel said the legacy of the 2022 tournament has been tainted by the issues surrounding it in the 12 year run up to the Qatar World Cup.

Isobel gave examples of how workers are discriminated, including through “unfair” and “unscrupulous” practices such as recruitment fees, wages being withheld, or being unbale to switch to new jobs, despite promises of reform.

She said: “Many companies have already made huge profits at the expense of those hundreds of thousands of migrant workers making up the backbone of the World Cup.

“We are simply just not seeing employers step up to address these risks in the kind of systematic and meaningful way that’s needed.”

Malcolm was able to provide first hand knowledge of what life is really like on the ground for workers in Qatar, who remain vulnerable to the whims of their bosses. He spoke about the long hours encountered by all workers, the poor conditions and the inability to be able to get employers to do anything.

He said: “You can’t go back so you’re trapped. You just become like resilient, you know, you just become like desensitised to all that. If you if you take things to literally, you can get involved in substances and all that even suicide. So a sense of humour is key.”

Malcolm was arrested and held for 12 weeks in May 2021 when the Qatari authorities discovered he had been blogging anonymously about workers’ conditions. He has since returned to Kenya and started a workers group, Migrant Defenders.

And James spoke of the need for national football associations to get behind the push for a compensation fund for families of those who have died in Qatar, as well as the controversy over death figures, as the country is transformed in readiness for the World Cup.

He said: “One of the big calls from from the advocacy community around the World Cup, there’s two things. One is we need compensation for people who have lost their lives or their livelihoods. And then the other thing is a legacy. What is the legacy going to be? Will these reforms be sustained, be deepened?”

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