Rights groups denounce decision to hold 2019 athletics championship in Qatar

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Human rights groups on Wednesday slammed the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the athletics governing body, for awarding the 2019 world championships to Qatar.

The Qatari capital Doha was named host of the 2019 Athletics World Championships on Tuesday, just days after the Gulf state's football officials were cleared of corruption charges by FIFA in their successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.

"We're stunned and still in shock, our impression is that our pleas are going unheard," Regina Spoettl, Amnesty International's Gulf states expert, told SID, an AFP subsidiary.

"We expect that sports events aren't carried on the backs of millions of exploited workers,” Spoettl added. "We are concerned that because of the IAAF world championships, even more migrant workers will have to work in inhuman conditions."

Qatar spent an unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning for the 2022 World Cup, and when allegations of migrant laborers being exploited came out, the country hired a global law firm to probe the media claims.

The IAAF announced Doha had beaten off Barcelona and Eugene, Oregon in the bid, much to the dismay of the two human rights groups.

Qatar relies heavily on migrants to build its mega-projects, including soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. The tiny Gulf state has come under scrutiny by rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers, most from Asia, who come to toil on construction sites, oil projects, or work as domestic help.

The Walk Free Foundation (WFF), an Australian-based human rights group on Monday ranked Qatar fourth in a global index of countries where slavery is most prevalent.

A recent Amnesty report about Qatar named “No extra time: How Qatar is still failing on workers’ rights ahead of the World Cup,” said some migrant workers are victims of forced labor there and treated appallingly by subcontractors employed by leading construction companies in a sector rife with abuse.

It said that “Qatar is still failing on workers’ rights ahead of the World Cup” and “has made only minimal progress on a number of plans it announced in May 2014” to tackle the reported exploitations.

According to the report, rights violations included “delays in payments of migrants’ wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, poor living conditions and shocking details of forced labor."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticized the IAAF's decision.

"We are very surprised that the IAAF has awarded the world championships to Qatar, because the public debate on human right and labor rights there has already been running for two years," HRW Germany's spokesman Wolfgang Buettner told SID.

"The awarding already shows an ignorance about the situation of migrant workers."

"If the situation of migrant workers had improved, then you could say that the awarding was a kind of reward, but that is not the case as the situation hasn't changed."

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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