Nepal rights groups ask FIFA chief to ensure compensation for Nepali workersThe rights bodies have written that it would be unforgivable to continue to ignore the plight of Nepali workers.
Amid the reluctance of the Qatar government to provide adequate compensation to the Nepali workers involved in the construction of the infrastructure for the ongoing football World Cup, around three dozen human rights organisations on Wednesday wrote to Gianni Infantino, the president of the global footballing body FIFA, the World Cup organiser, to take initiative to ensure compensation for the workers.
The human rights organisations in their letters have said it would be unforgivable if Infantino continued to ignore the plight of the Nepali workers and to deny their right to compensation. “We call on you to focus on the workers and use all the financial and political resources at your disposal to set up a programme to compensate workers and their families who lost so much so that others—including FIFA—may win,” reads the letter.
The rights groups have displayed their demands on billboards across Kathmandu, including at the Tribhuvan International Airport, which regularly receives returnee Nepali migrant workers—both alive and dead—from abroad including Qatar.
They wrote to the FIFA chief as the month-long mega footballing event wraps up on Sunday with the final match between Argentina and the winner of the semi-final between France and Morocco. They have reminded Infantino that hundreds of thousands of Nepalis have travelled to Qatar since 2010, when FIFA selected the Gulf emirate to host the 2022 World Cup, to build stadiums, roads and metro lines that have made the mega sporting event possible. For some, this has provided the means to support families back home and for many others, it has led to debt, poverty and abuse, said the human rights watchdogs.
“Our concerns for the rights of Nepalis in Qatar did not start when FIFA awarded the World Cup and will not end when the tournament is over. The stories of stolen wages and broken dreams are part of our everyday life. We are far too familiar with images of coffins arriving at Tribhuvan airport,” reads the letter by Amnesty International Nepal, Accountability Watch Group and National Network for Safe Migration, among others.
While welcoming the commitment of Qatar for labour reforms, the letter highlights that the workers remain at the mercy of ruinous recruitment fees and still lack guarantees of decent wages, safe working conditions and dignity. Illegal fees are still handed over, days off are refused, bodies still return without explanation, according to the letter.
“The World Cup has eventually brought some change. But it will be ‘too little, too late’ for thousands of our compatriots who returned home after having lost so much to make your tournament possible. It would be unforgivable for you to continue to ignore their plight, and to deny their right to compensation,” reads the letter. “The pain suffered over the last decade cannot be reduced to numbers or statistics—they are workers who have lost their life savings, children who have lost their education, families who have lost their sons, fathers, brothers and husbands. Their losses are real and cannot be dismissed.”
Following widespread pressure, Qatar recently set up a fund to compensate workers who can prove in court they have had wages stolen. However, the road to compensation is not easy. The fund does not compensate families of loved ones whose deaths were never recognised as being linked to their work. Unless this changes, thousands of people who contributed to Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup will continue to be denied what should rightfully be theirs, according to the human rights watchdogs.
Though Qatar is yet to make public the exact number of workers who lost their lives working on World Cup-related projects since it won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010, Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the Supreme Committee for delivery and legacy, which is responsible for the delivery of the World Cup, recently said in an interview that their numbers were between 400 and 500.
“The letter is our attempt to build pressure on the top football governing body to show due concerns towards the plight of the migrant workers who have contributed so much to make the World Cup happen,” Nirajan Thapaliya, director at Amnesty International, Nepal, told the Post.