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Activists take Qatar workers protest to FIFA boss’s hometown

Gianni Infantino
FIFA President Gianni Infantino at a World Cup football match in Qatar Keystone / Friedemann Vogel
Series Qatar World Cup, Episode 20:

An activist group erected protest billboards in FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s Swiss hometown of Brig on Wednesday to demand world football’s governing body compensate migrant workers for alleged human rights abuses in Qatar, host of the football World Cup.

The mobile billboards carried the messages “Infantino: your family were migrants”, “Thousands like them were victims of this World Cup”, and “Compensate them now”. Infantino was born in Brig to parents who had emigrated from Italy.

The protest by the Avaaz campaign groupExternal link included an Infantino impersonator holding a World Cup trophy.

Qatar, where foreigners make up most of the 2.9 million population, has faced intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers.

Zurich-based FIFA had no direct comment on the protest but pointed to comments by Infantino last month hailing a fund that Qatar set up in 2018 that has paid out $350 million (CHF330 million) to workers in cases mainly linked to late or non-payment of wages.

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‘Unprecedented due diligence’

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported last yearExternal link that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many of them working on World Cup projects – had died in Qatar since it won the right in 2010 to stage the World Cup.

The International Labour Organization has questioned that number, which it said included all deaths in the migrant population. Qatari World Cup organisers have said that there have been three work-related fatalities and 34 non-work-related deaths among workers at World Cup 2022 sites.

Amnesty and other rights groups have led calls for FIFA to compensate migrant workers in Qatar for human rights abuses by setting aside $440 million, matching the World Cup prize money.

FIFA has said it was assessing Amnesty’s proposal and implementing an “unprecedented due diligence process in relation to the protection of workers involved”.

The EU parliament last month approved a resolution that calls on FIFA to help compensate the families of migrant workers who died, as well as workers who suffered rights abuses, during preparations for the World Cup.

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