Corporate sponsors, Amnesty International question Qatar labor rights practices.

Visa, Adidas Pressure Qatar on World Cup Labor Abuses as Amnesty Releases Critical Report

Visa, Adidas Pressure Qatar on World Cup Labor Abuses as Amnesty Releases Critical Report

The Slatest
Your News Companion
May 21 2015 10:57 AM

Visa, Adidas Pressure Qatar on World Cup Labor Abuses as Amnesty Releases Critical Report

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Foreign laborers at a stadium under construction in the southern suburbs of Doha, Qatar.

Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty

An Amnesty International report released Thursday says Qatar has made no progress toward improving labor conditions for migrant workers in several crucial areas of scrutiny, while statements released Wednesday by 2022 World Cup sponsors Visa and Adidas pressured the country to take further action.

A previous Amnesty report identified nine problem areas related to the treatment and rights of the workers building the facilities and infrastructure that will be required for the 2022 tournament. In four of those areas, Amnesty now says, Qatar's government has made no improvements to worker conditions:

On the crucial issues of the exit permit, the restriction on changing employers in Qatar’s kafala system, protection of domestic workers and the freedom to form or join trade union – there has been no progress whatsoever.
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The infamous kafala system puts migrant workers' legal rights—including their right to find a new job—under the control of their employer. Employers must also approve workers' applications to leave the country.

By the standards of corporate communications, Visa and Adidas' statements on the labor situation were strongly worded. (For comparison, look at the two paragraphs of vague nothingness Coca-Cola put out on the same subject.) Visa:

We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions.  We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.

Said Adidas: "There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing, but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved."

Qatar's government, a monarchy headed by Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, does not appear to have yet responded to the Amnesty report or the sponsors' statements.

The BBC said earlier this week that several of its journalists were briefly imprisoned and had their equipment stolen by authorities while reporting on labor conditions in the country.