Dutch trade union FNV, the largest union in the Netherlands, has decided to sue FIFA over working conditions in Qatar.
National newspaper de Volksrant reports that FNV consider football's world governing body to be complicit in human rights violations, having granted World Cup 2022 to a country where workers suffer endemic exploitation. FNV are suing FIFA together with a migrant worker from Bangladesh, who found himself a victim of the same working conditions which have claimed the lives of dozens of labourers over the past few years.
FNV is seeking action from FIFA on Qatar's exploitation of foreign workers – many of whom come from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – and is also seeking compensation on behalf of the claimant.
Liesbeth Zegveld, a lawyer who helped to prepare the case, believes that the Bangladeshi worker was a victim of what is essentially enslavement, and told de Volksrant that foreign labourers in Qatar are more or less owned by their bosses. "The employer determines if and when a worker comes to work, eats, sleeps, gets his money and leaves. These are the features of modern-day slavery," she said.
Zegveld added that the case could turn into a mass claim, with other migrant labourers likely to come forward with grievances. While estimates on deaths and injuries on Qatar's World Cup sites vary, the general consensus is that they are egregiously high.
In addition to death and injury, migrant workers in the Gulf state face low pay, long working hours, squalid accommodation and limited access to amenities. Speaking to 31 migrant workers in six different camps, de Volksrant reports that 27 of them claimed they would not have come to Qatar had they known what lay in store for them.
Among their most damning complaints were allegations of fees being paid to employment agencies to gain jobs, with intermediary fees often outstripping workers' wages. That, combined with the need for an 'exit visa' to leave the country, leaves many migrants tied to employment against their will.
Geert-Jan Knoops, a professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, told de Volksrant that, although FNV's legal action against FIFA lacks legal precedent, "developments in international law mean that companies and organisations such as FIFA can be held jointly responsible for human rights violations arising from their investments in other countries." When asked for comment on the case, a FIFA spokeswoman reportedly declined.