MBS regime accused of abusing migrant workers ahead of FIFA decision

With its migrant workforce estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, Saudi Arabia—the most likely contender to host the FIFA World Cup in 2034—is facing criticism for the widespread use of forced labour. Through a well-known labour union, this accusation has been formally filed with the International labour Organisation of the United Nations.

The Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) union filed the complaint, which says that migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are subjected to a number of labour rights violations, including nonpayment of wages, passport confiscation, unlawful recruitment fees, debt accumulation that makes some workers feel like slaves in order to pay off, and limitations on their ability to change jobs.

No community will be able to tolerate the conditions, which the International Union of Building and Timber Workers refers to as a “epidemic of abuse” and says must be addressed because of the numerous detrimental effects that their spread will have.

“Saudi Arabia, where trade unions are banned, blatantly disregards international labour standards and fails to compensate migrant workers who have suffered abuses for over a decade,” the BWI general secretary Ambet Yuson said in a statement.

It is important to remember that Saudi Arabia, home to over 13 million migrant laborers from South Asia and Africa, has already undertaken union reform initiatives, including the removal of the kafala system and the implementation of a minimum wage. The Union of Construction and Wood Workers’ findings, however, show that infractions continue to happen. According to a survey of 193 migrant workers, 63% of them were unable to quit their jobs or leave when their contracts expired, and 65% of them were denied access to personal documents.

In this regard, “Together for Justice” joins the voice of the leading international organisations that have stood in solidarity with this complaint, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and FairSquare, and we stress that the ILO must conduct a comprehensive investigation into these allegations and put pressure on FIFA to ensure compliance with human rights standards.

We hope that this complaint will have an impact on FIFA’s decision, which is currently in the process of awarding Saudi Arabia the right to host the 2034 World Cup, and that it will serve as justification for applying pressure on the Kingdom to uphold internationally recognized human rights and to offer guarantees for doing so.

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