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Bohemian FC. A view of the Amnesty International logo on the Bohemians jersey (file pic).
# Qatar World Cup
'We need the pressure to continue to build' - calls for FAI to speak up for migrants’ rights in Qatar
Bohemians and Amnesty International Ireland have made their voices heard, as the Republic of Ireland face the 2022 World Cup hosts in a friendly game tonight.

CALLS HAVE HEIGHTENED for more pressure and conversation on human rights abuse in Qatar, with Bohemian FC and Amnesty International Ireland jointly calling on the FAI to speak up.

Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland face Qatar in an international friendly tonight, with the 2022 World Cup set to be held in the Gulf state.

“It’s not acceptable for so many people to lose their lives,” Kenny said in his pre-match press conference yesterday, though stating he was unsure if his side would follow the examples of Norway, Germany and the Netherlands in staging a protest ahead of tonight’s friendly against the World Cup hosts.

“The disparity of wealth between rich and poor, to have people living in conditions of squalor and have people dying in those conditions is not acceptable.”

The Guardian reported last month that that 6,500 migrant workers have been killed in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded in December 2010. These figures include deaths from all large-scale infrastructure works, rather than solely related to World Cup stadia. 

Nick McGeehan of FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf, told the Guardian, “a very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup.”

And Bohs released a statement this morning, along with Amnesty International Ireland, calling on the FAI to use this moment to pressure Fifa and the Qatari authorities on the long-standing abuses of migrant workers.  

“These abuses have included unpaid wages, excessively long working hours, severe restrictions on movement, appalling living conditions, and particularly in the case of domestic workers, verbal and physical abuse,” the statement reads.

“This treatment has been facilitated by the inherently abusive kafala (sponsorship) system. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s workforce and as such, the World Cup would not have been possible in the country without them. 

“While many reforms have been committed to, including the abolishment of the kafala system, the implementation of the reforms have been weak and are already seeing backlash from parts of the local business community, making this a critical moment in the fight for workers’ rights in Qatar.”

Within, there’s comment from Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland — who have campaigned on this issue ever since the hosting of the World Cup was given to Qatar in 2010. 

“Football fans and players should be able to take part and enjoy the World Cup, confident that the migrant workers who made the World Cup possible are not victims of human rights abuses,” O’Gorman — who also made a strong call for action on Morning Ireland this morning — said.

“The FAI have a responsibility under international human rights standards to use their leverage to prevent human rights abuses that they are linked to. So we’re calling on the FAI to use the spotlight of the World Cup to come out publicly in support of the human rights of the workers, and to urge Fifa to take urgent action.

“After years of pressure, the Qatari government committed in 2017 to reforming its abusive kafala sponsorship system, amongst other major promises of change. But these reforms are fragile and are facing backlash, so this is a critical moment.

“We need the international pressure to continue to build and the FAI have a clear role in that.” 

Amnesty International and Bohs previously worked together on the ‘Refugees Welcome’ away jersey, with the clubs’ fans instrumental in coming out in support for of human and migrant rights in Ireland.

“Workers’ rights are human rights, and we want to show solidarity with the people who’ve built the very stadiums that enable this World Cup to take place,” said Daniel Lambert, Chief Operating Officer for Bohemian FC. 

“We are calling on the FAI to use their leverage with Fifa and Qatar, and speak out to try and achieve real, long-lasting change for migrant workers. We and our supporters want the legacy of the World Cup 2022 to be a positive one, not one where people are being horrifically exploited. 

“We know that football can be a force for great good, let’s grasp this opportunity to demonstrate this on our biggest stage, the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Former France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry has called on football’s “big guns” to address the controversy over Qatar’s human rights record.

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Players of Germany, Holland and Norway’s national teams wore t-shirts before last week’s qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in protest against conditions of migrant workers who are helping build infrastructure in the country.

Norway and Germany will not face disciplinary action for their protests and although former World Cup winner Henry applauded players for standing up for change, he demanded more information from football’s governing bodies.

“First and foremost, let me talk about what the players did and the federation did, that was great. It was great I thought what they did, because they’re taking a stand and I think football also can be that,” Henry told BBC’s Newsnight.

“Those players need to realise that they have a voice and they can change a lot of stuff. Now, is it right that the World Cup is there (in Qatar)? I want to know from the big guns. Come out and explain what’s happening.

“And also I don’t know if you saw, they say they will not take action against those teams that did that because you can’t take action.

“What they did is great, it’s a great gesture for everybody. Can you come up and explain? Show your face and talk to us and let’s have a discussion about it.”

The former Arsenal and Barcelona forward was non-committal when asked if national teams should boycott the competition, but hinted he believed it will go ahead as planned.

He added: “They have already started the qualifiers, so they’d played after what they did. It looks like they are going to play the qualifications.”

- with reporting from Press Association, Emma Duffy and Gavin Cooney.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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