On 4 December 2000, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated 18 December as International Migrants Day. The proclamation invited:
“Member States, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to observe International Migrants Day, through, inter alia, the dissemination of information on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, the sharing of experience and the design of actions to ensure their protection.”
Since this proclamation, the global economy has become even more dependent on migrant workers. Many countries could not function without the work that they perform. That has long been the case in Qatar.
Today, BWI and FIFPRO celebrate International Migrants Day on the same day that marks the one-year countdown to the FIFA 2022 World Cup Final. Today, together, we want to recognise, honour and celebrate the work of migrant workers in Qatar and around the world.
On the International Migrants Day, the labour of migrant workers in Qatar is visible through the state-of-the-art stadia and facilities, accommodation and transport for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In a year’s time, the long journey leading to the FIFA 2022 World Cup will culminate with the final and the world champion lifting the trophy. As the lights of the stadium go off and the celebrations are over, the spotlight on Qatar will dim and the rights and conditions of migrant workers in Qatar risk no longer being under scrutiny and worldwide spotlight.
However, the need to demand that their human rights are respected and promoted will remain.
The bulk of the infrastructure for the World Cup has been built and there has been significant progress in the protection of human rights of migrant workers in Qatar. However, there is much more work to be done to fulfil the promise of the far-reaching reforms of labour laws.
On human rights of migrants, it is, therefore, in the words of the UN proclamation, urgent to move swiftly on “the design of actions to ensure their protection”.
To that end we, the building and construction workers and professional football players organised in the global unions BWI and in FIFPRO, voice the call of migrant workers in Qatar who seek:
- Progress, such as the abolition of the kafala system, to be fully implemented so that the World Cup leaves behind a tangible and sustainable human rights legacy.
- Guarantees that employers, without exception, respect the provisions of the laws.
- The establishment of a Migrant Workers’ Centre for workers to fully benefit from the reforms through assistance and education.
- Further new and ground-breaking steps to protect human rights, including the fundamental rights of workers.
Human rights are indivisible. In a global event like the World Cup, other international human rights should be honoured and showcased. The improvement in the protection of human rights, including for women and the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as care for deceased workers and their families should be part of the tournament’s legacy.
In one year’s time, the World Cup trophy can only be proudly lifted if the human rights of all individuals involved are fully respected and protected. This means guaranteeing a tangible and lasting legacy from the tournament.
FIFPRO is the worldwide representative organisation for 65,000 professional footballers. BWI is the most representative global trade union organisation for construction workers as well as workers in building, building materials, wood, forestry and allied sectors. Affiliates of FIFPRO and BWI have a significant number of migrant workers in their ranks.