BWI to World Cup football teams: Support enforcement of labour reforms in Qatar

BWI lauded the German national football team for its public support for migrant workers’ rights after its players spelled out “human rights” across the t-shirts they wore when they lined up during their qualifying match against Iceland in March.

In a letter addressed to the team on 9 April, BWI Vice-President Dietmar Schäfers welcomed the players’ commitment to help improve the working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar, especially those who laboured to build the mega infrastructures for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“I am delighted with the support of the athletes! I wish the team success in the next World Cup qualifying matches and the European Championship this year,” Schäfers said.

"BWI hopes that their support for human and labour rights will go beyond the World Cup and encompasses all major sporting events where workers are to be found," he added. 

Schäfers, who was also the Deputy Chairperson of IG BAU, said that BWI secured a lot of important reforms in the promotion and protection of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. He pointed to the regular independent labour inspections in Qatar’s World Cup construction sites which resulted in better working conditions and commitment to internationally-accepted health and safety standards, good working relationship with the Ministry of Labour in Doha and election of workers' committees on the ground where workers can go to, as some of the important reforms migrant workers have won through the years.

“While there are certainly more that need to be accomplished, these reforms are big steps forward, especially in the challenging context of Qatar. We hope that World Cup athletes will throw their support in ensuring the full implementation of all these crucial migrant workers' reforms," he said. 

However, Schäfers said that the call of some groups to boycott the 2022 World Cup doesn’t exactly mirror the sentiment of the hundreds of thousands of Qatar’s migrant workers, particularly those who worked in the World Cup construction sites.

“Many migrant workers believe that a boycott could undervalue and even render invisible their hard-won labour reforms. Many of them see the World Cup as a unique opportunity to bring the international community’s attention to the call for ‘fair play’—fair play for migrant workers building the sports arenas, cleaning the hotels, manning the restaurants and many others,” Schäfers said.