New app offers Qatar’s migrant workers first definitive World Cup 2022 legacy

An app providing migrant workers in Qatar with information on their rights and the possibility of legal assistance has been launched by three trade unions, the first definitive legacy for workers exploited in the process of delivering the World Cup.

With the month-long tournament ending on Sunday when Argentina play France in the final, the failure of Fifa and football associations to deliver positive change for workers has been decried this week by a number of charities and NGOs.

Now the international players’ union Fifpro, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) have taken action into their own hands by developing a digital platform to provide employment support. They call it “to date the only initiative made by and for the migrant workers” and say it follows consultations with as many as 1,000 individuals.

“As part of a shared vision over the last few years, [we] have been seeking ways to help ensure a positive and sustainable impact for communities and people involved in the delivery of major football events,” the unions said in a joint statement. “As it stands [our] call for better implementation and monitoring of recent labour reforms and the establishment of a Migrant Workers’ Centre in Qatar remains unanswered.

“With the Fifa World Cup coming to a close on 18 December, International Migrants Day, Fifpro, BWI and IDWF remain committed to supporting the advancement of migrant workers’ rights and conditions. The global unions encourage collaborations from all stakeholders to ensure that the working conditions and fundamental human rights of all workers involved in and around football tournaments are respected and protected.”

With workers in Qatar unable to organise their labour, and information commonly denied them by employers, there is little awareness of what rights are available to workers and how recent changes in employment law, including the abolition of the kafala system, has affected them. The app will attempt to provide users with “easy-to-understand actionable information” in seven languages: English, Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, Filipino, Hindi and Nepali. It will also provide migrant community groups who speak these languages with access to training content and educational resources.

Although a digital resource will not provide physical sanctuary, an idea integral to the proposal for a migrant workers’ centre in Doha, the app is a rare sign of a constructive approach to dealing with the issue of legacy after the World Cup moves on from Qatar.

The creation of a legacy fund to remedy workers for injuries, or compensate the families of those who had died, was another key demand by the international community that has not been met. This week a group of agencies, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, attacked Fifa for rolling back on what had been perceived as a commitment to such an idea.

“Fifa can still do the right thing by channelling the legacy fund towards workers and their families, supporting a genuinely independent workers’ centre and working with Qatar to ensure that every worker can access the compensation that they deserve,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice.