FIFA on Friday accepted “some responsibility” over the welfare of migrant workers constructing venues for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but acknowledged it was powerless to intervene.
“We have some responsibility but we cannot interfere in the rights of workers,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter reminded a press conference in Zurich.
The energy-rich Gulf emirate has been under mounting pressure to improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers building the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure for the 2022 tournament.
Blatter was speaking after the issue was discussed at a FIFA executive committee meeting.
“We are insisting that the responsibilities lie first with the state of Qatar and secondly with the companies employing the workers,” Blatter continued, adding that FIFA “can help resolve this problem through football”.
FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger has over the past few months held a series of talks with the 2022 World Cup organising committee, as well as human rights organisations, unions and the European Parliament to try and find ways to improve workers’ conditions in Qatar.
“All these groups must work together to improve the situation,” commented Zwanziger.
Since September, unions and human rights campaigners have denounced conditions for Qatar’s migrant worker population.
Most of the labourers working on the new stadiums and vast infrastructure projects ahead of football’s biggest tournament in Qatar are from South Asia.
Last month a Qatar rights body said that the death of over 450 Indian workers in almost two years in the country was “normal” given the size of the community estimated at around 500,000.
And an official at the Nepalese embassy told AFP in January that 191 deaths had been registered in 2013, many of them from “unnatural” heart failure, and 169 the year before.
Qatar in February published a set of guidelines aimed at protecting the rights of thousands of expatriate workers employed on its construction projects.