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European Parliament calls out FIFA, Qatar amid World Cup human rights row

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Qatar, asking Qatar and FIFA to extend compensation for families of workers who suffered while building World Cup 2022 infrastructure.

“MEPs deplore the deaths of thousands of migrant workers primarily in the construction sector who helped the country prepare for the tournament, as well as all those injured,” the Parliament said in a statement. It added that it welcomes the compensation of families through the so-called Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund by the Qatari government, but regrets that not all families have access to the fund.

MEPs call on the Qatari government to include “all those affected since the work related to the FIFA World Cup began, covering also workers’ deaths and other human rights abuses.”

Lawmakers highlighted the role of FIFA, asking the world football governing body to participate in a “comprehensive remediation programme” for workers’ families and accused the body of suffering from “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. “The organisation has seriously damaged the image and integrity of global football,” the resolution added.

At the same time the text acknowledged Qatar’s recent reforms in labor policies, saying the Parliament “supports Qatar’s recent efforts to improve the conditions and rights of workers, which the international community has raised, but calls for the full implementation of the adopted reforms.”

Qatar has faced criticism ever since it was awarded the tournament in 2010. Bribery and corruption allegations dogged the bidding process, and the country’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers have been criticized by activists, politicians and football associations ahead of the World Cup.

The adopted resolution also criticizes Qatar’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community and women.

Antonius Manders, a Dutch conservative MEP, organized an initiative for lawmakers to wear “OneLove” armbands during the debate. Football players wearing these armbands during the World Cup risk “sporting sanctions” from FIFA in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Manders told POLITICO he wanted to show that “we are against all kinds of discrimination and against the human rights breaches in Qatar by the FIFA.” But he added that he was “disappointed” that MEPs remained hesitant to stand up and show it. “There you see the power of the long arm of the FIFA,” he said.

There was a broad majority in favor of the resolution and only a few no votes, especially from the fringe, Parliament officials told POLITICO.

There had been some hesitancy before the vote especially from within the S&D and the EPP, with Socialist lawmaker and Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili arguing Wednesday that Qatar is a “frontrunner in labor rights,” but that still some “discriminate” against it.

But Spanish S&D MEP Pedro Marques called Thursday’s resolution “an important political message on Qatar,” with others like Jan-Christoph Oetjen reiterating this in a written statement and adding that the World Cup should have never taken place in Qatar.

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