England’s captain Harry Kane will wear an anti-discrimination armband at the World Cup as part of the Football Association’s plans to highlight the human rights situation in Qatar.
The FA says it is also trying to ensure that the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or been injured in construction projects will get compensation. And it insists that it continues to seek assurances given by the local organising committee that all fans, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, will be welcome, safe and secure in Qatar.
Kane and the captains of the seven other World Cup countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales – will wear the OneLove armband in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalised. He will wear the armband for the first time in Friday night’s Nations League match in Italy.
“As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination,” Kane said. “This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”
The issue of human rights in Qatar remains a concern, despite Fifa and the Qatari organisers claiming that significant reforms have taken place since the World Cup was awarded in 2010. This week the Guardian has highlighted how workers employed on World Cup-related projects are earning a basic wage of 1,000 riyals (£225) a month, the equivalent of about £1 an hour.
Meanwhile in the souk outside England’s hotel and along the beachfront promenade, where many fans will congregate, security guards from places including Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan endure 12-hour shifts for just over £1 an hour. They say they work 30 days a month. “If I take a day off, they cut my salary,” says one.
The FA said a group of migrant workers had been invited to England’s World Cup training base at al-Wakrah to meet the players. Its chief executive, Mark Bullingham, promised his organisation was also lobbying Fifa for an update regarding a compensation scheme in Qatar and the creation of a centre to help those workers access support.
“We continue to push for the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in construction projects,” Bullingham said. “Again, we are pushing Fifa for an update on the compensation fund which has been consistently referenced as a safety net where workers and their families have been unable to secure compensation from the construction companies.”
Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have called on Fifa to set aside $440m (£388m) to support a compensation fund and help establish a migrant workers centre – equivalent to the prize money on offer to teams at the World Cup.
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns, said he broadly welcomed the FA’s announcements. However he said that words had to be matched by wider action from Fifa and the Qatar organisers.
“The FA’s pledge to support efforts to remedy abuses suffered by thousands of overseas workers in Qatar – including with a migrant workers’ centre – could be significant, but we still need to see whether this is seriously taken up either by the Qatari authorities or by Fifa,” he said.
“Human rights issues have plagued preparations for this World Cup, and we’ve previously been disappointed by years of FA reticence and over-optimistic statements about ‘progress’ in Qatar.
“Unexplained migrant worker deaths, workers being cheated of their wages and others working extremely long hours are just some of the issues that Qatar’s patchily enforced labour laws are still failing to address.”