Rights group hits Qatari authorities, FIFA for 'callous' response after OFW death

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Rights group hits Qatari authorities, FIFA for 'callous' response after OFW death
Mock gravestones are inscribed with the words (from L): "Here lie/in memory of: Qatari LGBTQ persons, migrant workers, religious minorities, persecuted journalists, ethnic minorities, Qatari women" during a protest against the Football World Cup in Qatar, in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on November 20, 2022. Banner in background reads: "World Cup in Qatar, human rights offside".

MANILA, Philippines — New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch hit FIFA and Qatari authorities for what it said was the latter's disregard for the deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the years leading up to the tournament, following the most recent death of a Filipino migrant worker. 

In a press release issued Friday morning, Human Rights Watch called attention to the death of a Filipino migrant worker, Alex, his surname unknown, at a World Cup site in Qatar and the lacking response of World Cup and Qatari officials in the aftermath of the OFW's passing.

Sports outlet The Athletic reported that Alex died after falling at his worksite, a FIFA training base. Human Rights Watch said that while the authorities say they are investigating Alex’s death and established contact with his family, many families told the rights group that neither the employer nor the government even bothered to inform them that their loved ones had died.

Qatar World Cup chief executive, Nasser al-Khater, was quoted as saying in his response: “We have a successful World Cup. And this [migrant worker’s death] is something you want to talk about right now?” He added: “Death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep”

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura walked away from a reporter, saying, “I think we are here for the conference ... if it is about anything else, I am sorry.... I don't think that's appropriate.”

"The FIFA and Qatari authorities’ responses exemplify their entities’ longstanding disregard for migrant workers’ lives, repeated obfuscation of key facts, and the failure to take responsibility for migrant workers’ safety. The Qatari Supreme Committee was quick to deny the death was under its jurisdiction, even though at the time of his death, Alex was repairing FIFA infrastructure," Human Rights Watch said. 

"This shameful government attitude towards migrant worker deaths is reflected in the authorities’ failure to investigate the thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010. It also ignores that many of these deaths were preventable. Instead, the authorities regularly attributed these uninvestigated deaths to “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest.” This leaves many families of migrant workers ineligible for compensation under the Qatari labor law."

Qatar and the World Cup

Allegations of bribery and corruption have marred the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar, which has long faced international pressure over the mistreatment and deaths of migrant workers. 

Human Rights Watch also flagged Qatar for arbitrary arrests of LGBT Qataris in September. In response, Qatari officials said that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false.” They didn’t explain further. 

Earlier, a survey by video-sharing site Dailymotion first reported by BusinessWorld also found that two-thirds of Filipino football fans felt that the World Cup can "spread positivity and unite the world."

Data and insights company TGM Research also found in its Global World Cup Survey 2022 that over 60% of Filipinos were saying the hosting the World Cup in Qatar was a good call despite the allegations. 

"Qatar and FIFA have doubtlessly learned by now that the world is watching more than just the games, and seeing officials’ blatant disregard for the migrant workers who built the infrastructure that made this World Cup possible," Human Rights Watch said Friday. 

"Instead of trying to deflect the criticism, Qatar and FIFA should right these wrongs by compensating migrant workers and their families."




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