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Qatar World Cup’s Hassan al-Thawadi says migrant worker reforms on their way

Qatar World Cup’s Hassan al-Thawadi says migrant worker reforms on their way
December 18, 2019

Hassan al-Thawadi, the Qatari official in charge of organising the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has advised that the Arabian Gulf nation is making progress in reforming the rights of migrant workers building venues for the tournament.

Dogged by ongoing criticism of Qatar’s kafala system, which ties migrant workers to so-called sponsorship by their employer, al-Thawadi, the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee organising the event, said a definitive end to the kafala system would be set out next month and that he wanted reforms to apply not just to workers employed on World Cup projects but across Qatar and more widely.

In an interview in the Qatari capital, Doha, in advance of the final stages of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup, al-Thawadi suggested that reforms to the way Qatar treats its migrant workers will improve regional labour standards.

The Qatari royal family member advised that the abolition of kafala would mean “every person living in the country has the freedom to move from one job to another and can live their lives, change jobs whenever they want and leave the country as they want.”

Qatar says it is also planning labour market reforms, including introducing elected “workers’ welfare forums” to raise complaints with employers, and a more than 50% rise in the minimum wage.

It says it will be the first Gulf state to apply a uniform minimum wage that disregards nationality and is applicable not just to construction workers.

al-Thawadi added “the rise in the minimum wage is something I am very excited about (and) there are already signs of reforms being picked up in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia."

As reported by The Guardian, all Arabian Gulf states make heavy use of low-paid migrant labour, often from India. In the case of Qatar, the indigenous population now makes up only 10% of the country’s total of 2.8 million people. The Indian population of 700,000 alone dwarfs the number of locals.

Reports by Amnesty International and international labour organisations have highlighted the ongoing exploitation of migrant workers despite repeated promises to improve workers’ rights.

al-Thawadi claimed that some of the criticism levelled at Qatar since it won the right to stage the World Cup a decade ago had been “ill-informed, cynical or even vicious”.

Qatar’s current hosting of the FIFA Club World Cup is seen as a test of the nation’s sporting event infrastructure and follows October’s World Athletics Championships in Doha which were marked by poor attendances and complaints from athletes about a lack of atmosphere.

al-Thawadi said lessons have been learned and with 1.5 million fans due to visit for the World Cup, lack of enthusiasm would not be an issue.

He added “football and the World Cup can break down stereotypes. The passion for this game like no other creates a bond and bridges gaps.”

World Cup organisers have repeatedly warned fans that they will have to be respectful of Qatar’s local laws and customs, including a ban on homosexuality.

For the 2022 event said alcohol would be on sale in specified fan zones and in hotels but not on street corners.

He added “alcohol is not part of our culture but hospitality is.”

Images: Hassan al-Thawadi (top) and Qatar's Khalifa International Stadium (below).

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5th April 2016 - IAAF ‘closely monitoring’ Qatar workers’ situation following Amnesty report

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