Qatar will introduce reforms to protect the country’s army of migrant labourers working on the 2022 World Cup after an international outcry over conditions, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said Saturday.
The energy-rich Qataris, already facing pressure to switch the football showpiece to the winter to escape the blistering summer temperatures, have been widely lambasted by trade unions and human rights groups over their treatment of Asian workers employed on the multi-billion-dollar World Cup construction programme.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper earlier this year claimed labourers were facing “modern-day slavery” and were paying with their lives.
But Blatter, who met the Qatar emir and prime minister on Saturday, said the issue of working conditions was being addressed.
“They are aware of some problems and they are reactive,” said Blatter, without giving details of the planned changes in legislation.
“The labour laws will be amended and special attention will be paid also to inspections of the workers’ accommodation.”
With around 1.8 million foreign workers squeezed into the tiny Gulf state, Blatter said the government had already held talks with international trade unions and human rights groups who had investigated claims that labourers were not being paid while also having passports confiscated.
“I would say that they are ready to face the labour problems,” said the FIFA president.
But he insisted that it was not the job of FIFA to intervene in the laws of Qatar.
“We are not responsible for the laws, but we are happy to see those laws will be amended.
“The commitement that I have received today from all the parties means that I’m convinced that it’s like we say in football — they are playing forward now, they will solve the problems which exist.”
Meanwhile, Blatter also explained that more consultations are needed ahead of moving the 2022 World Cup away from the blistering summer heat of the Gulf to the winter months.
“There is no doubt that the World Cup in 2022 will be organised in Qatar and this decision is not reversible,” Blatter told reporters.
He added that Qatar was “willing and able to organise the World Cup in July” as initially planned.
“If it’s possible to play at another date, it will be better but they will not play the World Cup in January or February.”
Blatter said this was not possible because of a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
On Friday in the United Arab Emirates, he had said the World Cup “can only be done in November-December” but he did not mention those dates in Doha on Saturday.