Amnesty International has maintained its Qatar pressure on Gianni Infantino as he flies into Doha from Russia to start his first visit to the Gulf state in his two-month-old role as president of FIFA.
The latest salvo concerning widely-criticised labour laws was issued ahead of Infantino’s three-day visit to the 2022 World Cup host which starts today.
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Gulf Migrants Rights Researcher, said: “Gianni Infantino has a golden opportunity to show that under his presidency FIFA will promote human rights.
“Without robust engagement starting right now, every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 is likely to directly encounter migrant workers – in hotels, sports venues, shops – whose human rights have been abused.
“It is essential that FIFA publicly calls on Qatar to tackle the systematic exploitation and abuse of World Cup workers, largely driven by the sponsorship system in Qatari law that leaves workers at the mercy of their employers.”
Qadri criticised Infantino’s initial comments about the various Qatar issues which have engaged human rights pressure groups and international trade unions.
He said: “So far Gianni Infantino’s response to revelations of abuse on Khalifa stadium in Doha has been business as usual for FIFA: heavy on PR, light on tangible reform.
“FIFA laid the foundations for a World Cup built on abuse with five years of laissez-faire response to human rights in Qatar. If Infantino fails to confront the issue during this visit, in the face of well-documented abuses, he will erect the scaffolding for continuing exploitation.”
Last month Amnesty published a report exposing abuse of construction workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, which will host a World Cup semi-final in 2022.
The report urged FIFA to call on the Qatari authorities to publish a timetable for systematic reform ahead of an expected mid-2017 peak in World Cup construction, when the number of World Cup stadium workers is expected to hit 36,000.
Last week Harvard professor John Ruggie published a FIFA-commissioned report on the organisation’s business practices. While the report set out broad organisational human rights measures, it did not specifically address the Qatar issue.
No such critical problems for Infantino in Russia where he praised the state of preparations for its hosting of the 2018 World Cup finals.
Concerns have been raised about cost-cutting amid the financial pressures felt in Russia in the international political arena after the inventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
However Infantino emerged declaring a positive impression of what is being undertaken, little more than two years from the first World Cup to be staged in eastern Europe.
Infantino began with a visit to the Luzhniki Stadium which is being redeveloped to stage, among others, the Opening Match and Final of Russia 2018. He was escorted by Moscow’s Mayor Sergey Sobyanin and continued to the 2018 Countdown Clock next to Red Square along with LOC ceo Alexey Sorokin and Zvonimir Boban, the former Croatia midfielder accompanying the FIFA President on his visit to Russia and Qatar.
Later came a meeting with Russian football veteran Nikita Simonyan and a briefing on development and legacy opportunities with local federation officials federation president Vitaly Mutko who is also Sports Minister, LOC head and a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Infantino said: “I am very excited about this visit and my first FIFA World Cup as President. I am impressed with what is going on in football in this country, not only with staging the FIFA World Cup but also the Russian Football Union’s plans when it comes to football development.
“Minister Mutko and his team are doing a great job. I can say that we are on track here and have the full commitment that everything will be done in accordance with the schedule.”