Less than a month before Qatar’s World Cup, the Socceroos published a video in which the team acknowledged progress made by Qatar.
Australia’s national football team has spoken out against Qatar less than a month ahead of the FIFA World Cup, citing human rights in the Gulf states.
In a video released on Wednesday, several players from the Socceroos highlighted a range of controversies surrounding the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup.
“Over the last two years, we have been on a journey to understand and learn more about the situation in Qatar,” said captain Mat Ryan in the three-minute dramatised black and white video.
“We have learned that the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in the suffering and the harm of countless of our fellow workers,” midfielder Jackson Irvine later said.
“As players, we fully support the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar people are not free to love the person that they choose,” Denis Genreau claimed.
Despite this, the video acknowledged Qatar’s progress and credited authorities for initiatives launched and laws reformed over the last decade.
The team stated it had listened to remarks from Amnesty, FIFA, the Supreme Committee, the International Labour Organisation, and several other intuitions.
“We have learned that progress have been made on both papers and in practice. The Kafala System has largely been dismantled, working conditions have been improved, and a minimum wage has been established,” said defender Alex Wilkinson.
However, the footballers demanded that specific requirements be met in Qatar to ensure a “lasting legacy” for human rights.
“We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.”
“This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships. These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar,” said the Aussie footballers.
The statement from the footballers is distinctive since it is the first World Cup team to collectively criticise Qatar.
16 of Australia’s footballers were involved in the video, though some were missing, such as Awer Mabil, Garang Kuol, and Daniel Arzani. It is unclear why they weren’t featured in the video.
The video was composed with the help of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Australia.
In a statement sent to Doha News, a spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said: “We commend footballers using their platforms to raise awareness for important matters”, saying Qatar has “committed every effort to ensuring that this World Cup has had a transformative impact on improving lives, especially for those involved in constructing the competition and non-competition venues we’re responsible for.”
Qatar has received a barrage of criticism for its track record in its treatment of migrant workers, with scrutiny exacerbating in recent weeks as the World Cup looms around the corner.
Despite this, Doha has introduced major reform to improve the conditions for workers in the country, with officials assuring such progress will continue long after the tournament ends.
The spokesperson said “protecting the health, safety, security, and dignity of every worker contributing to this World Cup is our priority.
“This is achieved through our commitment to holding contractors accountable via our worker welfare standards, continuous work on enhancing health and safety practices, creating and developing worker representation forums in collaboration with international unions and experts, robust auditing that includes an independent third party monitor, working with contractors to ensure workers who paid recruitment fees are entitled to repayment, and ensuring that these policies lead to a change in work culture that lasts far beyond 2022.”
Calls of Hypocrisy
The Oceania country joins a wave of European nations who have quoted the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws as well as the Gulf State’s treatment of migrant workers.
Comments under the post called the Australian comments hypocritical, with many pointing to the country’s treatment of immigrants.
“Where was your message when many people were unlawfully lock up in the camps because they refused to obey your ridiculous sanitary rules?” wrote one social media user.
“Basic human rights and Australia should never be in the same sentence,” said another account.
The Australian government has been criticised for forcefully moving asylum seekers and refugees to offshore camps in the countries of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where actions of inhumane treatment have been reported by human right watch organisations.
The Oceanic country depends on a workload of migrant workers with several cases of exploitation crimes, particularly the theft of migrant workers’ wages.
An open letter signed by 14 legal service providers that include churches and other advocacy organisations across Australia have called on the government to enact three key reforms to address the case of migrant wages.
Those reforms include “enable migrant workers to act against exploitative employers by providing effective visa protections to whistle-blowers who report exploitation to the Fair Work Ombudsman or make claims through the courts.”
The second and third movement calls to “implement an efficient, accessible, and inexpensive claims process for workers to promptly recover their wages and entitlements; and extend the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to employees on temporary visas.”
A survey by The University of New South Wales (UNSW) uncovered that international students that worked in the country were severely unpaid, with ” one in four earned less than half the minimum casual hourly wage.”
“Nine in ten suffered wage theft in silence and took no action. Nine in ten believed many or most other migrant workers were underpaid,” the survey states.
The Australian government has acknowledged the abuses in the system, however the migrant worker task force has implemented no changes, according to UNSW.
The latest developments come just days after Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani slammed what he described as “ferocious” attacks against Qatar since it won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, saying “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.
“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council on Tuesday.
The Qatar ruler admitted that while the criticism has helped the country “develop aspects that needed development,” the campaign has expanded to include slander.
“It soon became clear to us that the campaign has continued and expanded, and includes slander and double standards until it has reached such a ferocity that many, unfortunately, wonder about the real reasons and motives behind it,” said Sheikh Tamim.
In its statement, the SC said: “the Qatari government’s labour reforms are acknowledged by the ILO, ITUC, and numerous human rights organisations as the benchmark in the region. New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.
“No country is perfect, and every country – hosts of major events or not – has its challenges. This World Cup has contributed to a legacy of progress, better practice, and improving lives – and it’s a legacy that will live long after the final ball is kicked.”
Editors note: This article was updated to include a statement from a Supreme Committee spokesperson.