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Unions warn FIFA of "modern slavery" in Qatar

ZURICH (Reuters) - Soccer’s governing body FIFA was warned by international trade unions on Thursday that migrant workers in 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar were subjected to conditions of “modern slavery.”

FIFA said it would take up the issue with Qatari authorities and that labor rights would in future be included among the criteria which were considered when countries bid for the World Cup.

“We asked the FIFA secretary general (Jerome Valcke) if they wanted their stadiums to be built by slave workers, by exploited labor,” Ambet Yuson, general secretary of Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), told Reuters.

“Ninety-four percent of workers are migrants in Qatar. It’s basically modern slavery,” he said after the meeting at FIFA headquarters.

“They are migrant workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh; they go there and their passports are withheld, sometimes they don’t get paid their salaries or they are six months late and they have no other options.

“It’s terrible; I was there, their living quarters are really bad, it’s a bad situation.”

“FIFA said they will use leverage, because Qatar wants the World Cup. We told them it’s serious and we are going to campaign. We said we want to see some action in six months.”

Yuson said he was also worried that delays in the building of stadiums in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup could lead to a last-minute rush.

“When you try and rush, accidents happen,” he said. “There have been 12 strikes already. Wages are very low, there are a lot of contractual workers and there’s the issue of health and safety.”

Representatives from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Swiss Union Unia also took part in the meeting with Valcke.

FIFA said in a statement: “It was agreed that FIFA and ITUC will work jointly over the next few months to address labor issues with the Qatari authorities.

“It was also agreed to add labor-related criteria to the bidding process of future FIFA World Cups.

“We have a responsibility that goes beyond the development of football and the organization of our competitions.”

Editing by Clare Fallon