ZURICH (AP) – Pressure on Qatar to improve the labor conditions for migrant workers building 2022 World Cup projects increased on Wednesday with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing the situation as unacceptable.
FIFA issued a statement after Blatter met International Trade Union Confederation president Michael Sommer and agreed that ''fair working conditions must be introduced quickly, consistently and on a sustained basis in Qatar.''
atar has been criticized in reports by the United Nations and Amnesty International about pay, labor and housing conditions for workers brought mostly from south Asia.
''Economic and political leaders must contribute to improving the unacceptable situation in Qatar,'' said Blatter, who met this month with the Emir of Qatar and other government officials in Doha. ''I am convinced that Qatar is taking the situation very seriously.''
FIFA has previously been tackled for not intervening more quickly with the Qatari authorities. Blatter has said the issue is ''not FIFA's primary responsibility, but we cannot turn a blind eye.''
Sommer said it was ''our mission to establish humane working conditions'' in Qatar, where reported abuses include workers having pay withheld, passports confiscated and being prevented from leaving the country without consent from employers.
''Qatar must guarantee the (International Labor Organization's) core labor standards and thus eliminate discrimination and forced labor as well as allow freedom of association for its 1.3 million migrant workers,'' Sommer said.
atari World Cup organizers have acknowledged that the ''kafala'' system of employment sponsorship - which the U.N. wants abolished - needs to be modernized, and say the government is preparing reforms. The meeting on Wednesday at FIFA involved the German ITUC leader and top soccer officials from Germany, whose industries are expected to figure strongly in bidding for construction contracts in Qatar worth tens of billions of dollars ahead of the World Cup.
Video: Amnesty International criticize FIFA over Qatar working conditions
''The awarding of the World Cup and the considerable public exposure gives us the opportunity to point out irregularities and to exact lasting change,'' German soccer federation president Wolfgang Niersbach said.
Amnesty International's secretary general Salil Shetty had said earlier this week: "Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup.
Shetty added: "Qatar is recruiting migrant workers at a remarkable rate to support its construction boom, with the population increasing at 20 people an hour. Many migrants arrive in Qatar full of hopes, only to have these crushed soon after they arrive. There's no time to delay - the government must act now to end this abuse."
FIFA said it gave executive committee member Theo Zwanziger of Germany a mandate to work with the ITUC and include human rights and labor organizations in the talks. Zwanziger is scheduled to report on ''concrete measures'' regarding Qatar at the March 20-21 FIFA board meeting in Zurich.
FOXSoccer.com's newswire services contributed to this report.