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FIFA must stop quibbling over Qatar workers

Journalists are reflected in a logo at the FIFA headquarters after a meeting of the executive committee in Zurich October 4, 2013. REUTERS/A
Journalists are reflected in a logo at the FIFA headquarters after a meeting of the executive committee in Zurich October 4, 2013. REUTERS/A

By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA needs to stop ducking its responsibility in relation to the labor rights situation in 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar and start looking for solutions, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

"We are still hearing protestations about the level to which FIFA is responsible but this is missing the point," James Lynch, Amnesty's researcher for migrant workers in the Gulf, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"FIFA wants to put itself lower in the pecking order than other actors but it's an argument which is not worth investing time in.

"We need to move on to what FIFA will do and we would like to hear FIFA speaking on behalf of the workers and address what needs to be done."

Qatar has been under fire for its treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry after Britain's Guardian newspaper reported in September that dozens of Nepali laborers died last year.

Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation have also criticized the treatment of migrant laborers in Qatar, fearing the problem could worsen with the extra construction work needed for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatari World Cup organizers produced a 50-page document in February outlining stricter measures which would apply to contractors involved in building work for the tournament,

However, this stopped short of addressing the kafala, or sponsorship, system where workers need their employer's permission to leave the country.

FIFA's executive committee, meeting last Friday, agreed the situation needed to be closely looked at but added that soccer's governing body was "not responsible for any country's domestic laws."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said his organization had "some responsibility".

"We are insisting that the responsibilities lie first with the state of Qatar and secondly with the companies employing the workers," he said.

But Lynch said that FIFA needed to "advocate solutions everyone agrees is the answer."

"They need to address the failings of the sponsorship system, upgrade the labor court system and make sure laws are implemented," he said.

"FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar and it has a responsibility for the impact of that decision, full stop. It can't take that fact away.

"Now, it's about what they are going to do. They need to listen to a range of voices and meet some workers, without supervision, so the workers can speak their minds."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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