07.12.2022 18:01 h

Campaigners urge FIFA chief to compensate World Cup 'victims'

Campaigners demonstrated in FIFA president Gianni Infantino's home town on Wednesday, demanding compensation for migrant workers who died or were exploited while building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

Global citizen activism group Avaaz drove billboards through Brig in southern Switzerland, calling for immediate compensation for "victims of this World Cup", as the tournament in Qatar gears up for the quarter-final stage.

Qatar's top World Cup official Hassan Al-Thawadi said last week that more than 400 migrant workers died in labour accidents in the Gulf state in the years leading up to the tournament.

Qatar has never given precise figures for the number of deaths of foreign labourers though it has denied claims by rights groups that thousands died.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and 23 other groups wrote to Infantino in May urging him to establish a remediation programme for "abuses" suffered by workers, who have complained of conditions that amount to forced labour, lost and unpaid wages, and long hours without days off.

Nearly 725,000 people have signed an Avaaz petition citing the "devastation that building the World Cup in Qatar has had on hundreds of thousands of migrants" and calling on Infantino to establish a "compensation fund for the victims for $440 million".

In a press conference on the eve of the World Cup, Infantino linked criticism of Qatar's treatment of migrant workers to his own experiences as the son of Italian immigrants to Switzerland.

Avaaz drove three mobile billboards through Brig reading: "Infantino: Your family were migrants. Thousands like them were victims of this World Cup. Compensate them now."

Avaaz activist Andy Legon told AFP: "He needs to compensate the victims of this World Cup. Thousands were abused, exploited, and many migrant workers actually died.

"His reputation is really on the line right now. When he was elected president, he said he would clean up FIFA's reputation, and look at the result."

Avaaz legal director Bieta Andemariam said Infantino had been "utterly unrepentant, doing next to nothing to help victims or their families despite the organisation reaping billions in revenue from the tournament.

"Frankly, the level of cold-heartedness and greed is shameful," she said in a statement.

"Infantino has the authority to re-establish his legacy and set a new course for FIFA's human rights record. A generous worker compensation fund is a crucial start."

FIFA's Deputy Secretary General Alasdair Bell told the Council of Europe in October it was "important to try to see that anyone who suffered injury as consequence of working in the World Cup... is somehow redressed".