February 6 – World Cup hosts Qatar have responded to claims by Amnesty International that time is running out to implement globally acceptable labour reforms by pledging the country is entirely committed to stopping widespread abuse.
Qatari authorities insisted they were on course to deliver “lasting” change after the London-based human rights group issued a strong indictment of lack of progress.
“Far from seeing time as running out, the government of the State of Qatar understands further change is needed and we remain committed to developing these changes as quickly as possible, while ensuring they are effective and appropriate for our labour market conditions,” a government statement said.
“Practical, efficient and lasting change takes time and that is what we have committed to.”
Doha has initiated a series of labour reforms in recent years following intense international pressure but in a report published on Tuesday, Amnesty said that despite this, conditions “for many migrant workers in Qatar remain harsh”.
The 19-page report by the human rights group said efforts to protect workers’ rights were “falling significantly short” and that “much more needs to be done” since workers were still subjected to “exploitation and abuse”.
Amnesty specifically called on Qatar to increase the minimum wage and scrap the antiquated “kafala” sponsorship system that ties migrant workers to their employers and restricts their ability to change jobs or leave the country.
Amnesty director Stephen Cockburn said: “Time is running out if the Qatari authorities want to deliver a legacy we can all cheer… a labour system that ends the abuse and misery inflicted upon so many migrant workers. The authorities have been taking some important steps to protect labour rights but much more needs to be done. Holes in the reforms mean many workers are still stuck in harsh conditions.”
In a statement, FIFA said it “welcomes the important steps taken in recent months by the government of Qatar towards reforming its laws on the protection of workers’ rights”.
However, it added: “We share the view of Amnesty International that additional progress is needed for the full implementation of the commitments for comprehensive labour reform by the government of Qatar.”
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