The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) is suing FIFA on behalf of a Bangladeshi man over alleged complicity in the mistreatment of foreign workers in Qatar.

The lawsuit claims that Nadim Sharaful Alam was harshly exploited between 2014 and 2016 while he worked on 2022 World Cup facilities in the Gulf state, which has been criticized by Amnesty International and other organizations for failing to meet the minimum labor standards. Backed by the largest labor union in the Netherlands, the suit launched at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich calls on FIFA to force Qatar to at least allow workers to quit a job or leave the country.

FIFA Workers
Workers at the Al Wakrah Stadium. Image credit: Youtube/Secular Talk.

A draft letter to be filed with Zurich’s Trade Court reads that Alam’s passport was taken away as soon as he arrived in Qatar and he was forced to work for 18 months under unacceptable conditions, as reported by Reuters.

After unloading ships carrying construction materials and paying for meals at the workers’ camp, the 21-year-old Bangladeshi was fired and then deported. He earned too little and couldn’t afford the $4,000 initial recruitment fee. Alam seeks around $11,500 in compensation for material damages and for the deal in which he paid to the recruiter.

According to a letter sent to FIFA Sunday night, the president Gianni Infantino has three weeks to pay damages to Alam. Otherwise, he would have to face going to court, The Telegraph reported. The FNV believes FIFA should not ignore its responsibility as the “motivating force” behind the infrastructural projects, according to the report by Reuters.

The labor union also argues that FIFA has the power to manage hosting deals as an organization that has historically demanded concessions from hosts. The letter to Infantino calls on FIFA to admit that it made a mistake by awarding the World Cup 2022 to Qatar, taking into account that the organization had failed to make sure that the Gulf state warranties fundamental human and labor rights regarding migrant construction workers involved in the 2022 World Cup, The Telegraph informed.

Additionally, the letter says FIFA should have demanded the abolition of modern slavery represented by the “kafala” system, which forces migrant workers to be beholden to an in-country sponsor. The document specifies that FIFA is legally responsible for allowing Qatar to take part in the contest for the upcoming World Cup, for selecting it as a host and subsequently failing to demand Qatar to reform its legal system.

FIFA’s reaction

A FIFA spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that the organization received a legal letter about the case. The news agency didn’t mention her name but informed that she remarked the organization’s point of view is “well-known.” Still, she said FIFA is considering setting up a group to monitor working conditions in Qatar.

Although FIFA has sought to help produce positive changes in Qatar, the organization has always argued it cannot take responsibility for the “societal problems” in host countries.

The organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup has introduced minimum welfare standards for people working in projects such as stadium constructions and others for which it considers itself to be responsible. Amnesty International reported in May that human rights abuses did exist on such sites, according to The Telegraph.

Source: Reuters