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SportsAmnesty International calls for human rights assurances at World Cups

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Amnesty International calls for human rights assurances at World Cups

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Amnesty International has urged FIFA and the countries bidding to host the 2030 and 2034 World Cups to commit to binding agreements and legal reforms to prevent human rights violations related to the tournament.

In October, FIFA awarded the 2030 World Cup to Morocco, Spain, and Portugal, while Saudi Arabia remains the sole bidder for the 2034 edition.

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Amnesty International emphasised that there are “serious human rights” risks that must be addressed in connection with these events.

“FIFA should ensure a rigorous and transparent bidding process based on meaningful stakeholder participation, including genuinely independent human rights risk assessments and comprehensive human rights strategies,” human rights organisation Amnesty said.

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“FIFA should be prepared not to award the rights to host the World Cup until such agreements are made and until it is clear that human rights violations can and will be prevented, mitigated and remedied.”

Amnesty said the commitments must prevent human rights violations in relation to “labour rights, discrimination, housing, freedom of expression, policing and privacy” before finalising a decision to approve any bid.

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FIFA included human rights standards as part of the bidding requirements for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups. However, Amnesty International is concerned that single bids for each tournament reduce FIFA’s leverage to ensure these standards are met.

The football governing body set a July deadline for submitting bids for the 2034 World Cup, which will be evaluated later this year. The host nation will be officially announced in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Amnesty International raised concerns about the high accident rates at construction projects in Spain and Portugal, which exceed EU levels.

They also highlighted ongoing discrimination in Spanish stadiums, citing the racism faced by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr.

Additionally, Amnesty called for Morocco and Portugal to increase their number of labor inspectors by over 50% to meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) benchmarks.

Amnesty has shared its report with FIFA. Reuters has reached out to FIFA and the football associations of the countries bidding for the World Cup for comment.

Risks associated with hosting the 2034 tournament in Saudi Arabia are of a “different magnitude and severity” that will test FIFA’s commitment to its human rights policies, Amnesty said.

Amnesty researcher Dana Ahmed said that although they were allowed to do research on migrant workers in Qatar, which hosted the 2022 World Cup, leading to several reforms, they have not had any access in Saudi Arabia.

“It is extremely difficult to do research from the outside,” she told reporters.

On Wednesday, a global coalition of trade unions lodged a complaint against Saudi Arabia with a UN-backed labor organization.

The complaint, filed by Building and Wood Workers’ International, calls on the International Labor Organization to investigate Saudi Arabia for “severe human rights abuses and wage theft.”

According to the union group, these violations have impacted at least 21,000 workers over the past decade.

“The complaint emphasises the exploitative living and working conditions among the country’s vast migrant workforce — conditions that BWI notes are akin to forced labour,” the global group of trade unions said in a statement.

The BWI cited allegations of illegal recruitment fees demanded, wages and passports withheld, limits on workers leaving jobs, plus physical and sexual violence “particularly against female and domestic workers.”

Reuters has contacted the Saudi Ministry of Sport for comment.

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