Is the French football team one of the only Europeans not to have met Amnesty to discuss the plight of workers in Qatar?

Is the French football team one of the only Europeans not to have met Amnesty to discuss the plight of workers in Qatar?

Hello, you asked us about a tweet published on September 6 by Quentin Müller, author of the slaves of the oil man (which should be released at the beginning of October by Marchialy editions). The journalist evokes the fate of foreign workers in Qatar, and affirms that the French Football Federation [FFF] was one of the few in Europe to refuse a meeting between players of the French team and Amnesty France to discuss the living conditions of foreign workers in Qatar”.

While his tweet indicated that the information was detailed in his future book, co-authored with journalist Sebastian Castelier, CheckNews could not find the excerpt in a copy provided by his publishing house. Asked, Quentin Müller explains: “It’s information that I thought I had put in the book but in fact not. It was Lola Schulmann who revealed this to me during an interview in June.

Lola Schulmann is an advocacy officer at Amnesty France, the non-governmental organization for the defense of human rights. This summer, she also told CheckNews the difficulties encountered by his NGO in getting the French Football Federation to react to the fate of foreign workers employed in Qatar. After an online mobilization, then in front of the FFF headquarters, Amnesty France had obtained a meeting with the leaders of the federation on April 19, 2022. But since then, nothing more, told us Lola Schulmann, who assured us that she had asked President Noël Le Graët that a meeting could take place between the NGO and the players from the France team to raise their awareness of the challenges of respecting human rights in Qatar. Requested by CheckNews for several weeks, the FFF has not responded to any of our requests on the subject.

According to Amnesty France’s Advocacy Officer, such seminars or in-depth discussions have been conducted by Amnesty branches in Germany, Belgium, UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland , in Norway and also in Australia, even if it is going too far to say that the majority of European national teams have met the NGO teams.

CheckNews toured the teams qualified for the competition.

The “Mannschaft” and the “Red Devils” saw Amnesty

Among the “good students”, we can mention the players of the German and Belgian teams, who have already met the Amnesty teams directly. At the beginning of June, the football federations of Belgium and from Germany, as well as the local branches of Amnesty distributed press releases and photographs showing these meetings. They were even followed by statements from top players, such as Belgian star Eden Hazard, stating: “It’s good to talk about these issues, they are things that need to be talked about. We must not be afraid to say things, even if we are there in the first place to play football. On the German side, the Mannschaft saw the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch teams twice in March and June 2022. Prior to the first meeting, German captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he was delighted with this meeting : “It is important to us that such “professionals” come to visit us and that we can thus get an insight. I think it’s also crucial for us.”

Outside Europe, Australia, which will be an opponent of France in the first round of the competition, are among the countries where players, including Mat Ryan and Jackson Irvine, have taken part in meetings with unions supporting workers migrants that Qatar has recruited. Sheets were also sent to the men’s and women’s teams on the situation of foreign workers in Qatar.

Denmark and the Netherlands: meetings scheduled for September

Contacted by CheckNews, Amnesty branches in these two countries assure that the meetings with the players will take place by the end of September. Amnesty Denmark recognizes, however, that the one with the “Danish Dynamite” should not last only fifteen minutes. The two branches of the NGO insist on the fact that they have had “regular contact” for several years with the football federations of the two countries on the question of human rights, in particular in Qatar.

England and Wales: no meetings but efforts

Regarding England and Wales, Amnesty UK indicates that there have been no meetings with either team, despite announcements on the subject. “For many months the UK media reported that there would be a briefing with human rights organizations and players [anglais]. But that never happened. Instead, the Football Association of England told us more recently that they themselves had shared relevant human rights information with players,” says a spokesperson.

In March, the Guardian had indeed reported the reaction of midfielder Jordan Henderson, who described as “shocking, disappointing and horrific” human rights abuses committed by Qatar, after his England team-mates received a thirty-minute briefing on the situation in the World Cup host country. Amnesty UK indicates that it did not organize this presentation, “wholly run by the English Football Federation (FA)”. The latter, however, cited the work of the NGO among the information presented to the players. Amnesty UK has since estimated that “Overall, the FA are less vocal than the Welsh FA on human rights issues in the run-up to the World Cup.”

In a statement shared on August 25, Amnesty UK welcomed a statement from the Welsh FA calling for “to see further significant and lasting improvements in the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar” while supporting the creation of a center for migrant workers in Doha, and invited the English federation to become more involved. The NGO called on the Welsh effort to also materialize through support for the compensation fund for workers.

Switzerland: commitments for hotels but no briefing with players

Amnesty claims to have “regular exchanges with the Swiss Football Association, which accepted at the end of the qualification for the world in Qatar to check whether the hotels respect human rights”. Amnesty Switzerland regrets, however, that the association did not accept meetings with the players.

Spain: the federation does not respond to Amnesty

In Spain, relations between the NGO and the Royal Spanish Football Federation seem worse than in France. A spokesperson for the NGO indicates that “the Spanish section of Amnesty International has written to the federation six times […] about the role that the different sports bodies must play in terms of respect for human rights and the way in which sport can serve as an impetus for these rights in certain countries, and more particularly about the role of the Spanish federation in the organization of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. […] None of the letters have been answered and we have not even received an acknowledgment of receipt. We also carried out some public acts before the federation, without being received, so I would not qualify these communications as exchanges, because from them, there has been no response to date”.

Portugal: Amnesty has been running a general campaign for human rights since 2020

Contacted by CheckNews, Amnesty Portugal did not respond to our request for this article. On its website and on that of the Portuguese Football Federation, we can see that the two organizations launched in 2020 a campaign called “I play for human rights”. While this approach is not limited to Qatar, the NGO recalls in its manifesto the importance of freedom of movement and emphasizes that “Unfortunately, we have the example of the migrant workers in charge of the construction of the new football stadiums in Qatar who found themselves with their passports withheld, without being able to visit their families or leave the country”. If we do not find photographs of the players or statement of his star Cristiano Ronaldo with the Amnesty teams, we can see that the Portuguese Football Federation has assured “to defend human rights, LGBTQI+ people and media freedom”, following a visit to Qatar by a UEFA working group, of which she is a member.

Poland, Croatia, Serbia: no commitments on the sites of the football federations

Despite our requests, we have not received a response from Amnesty Poland on this subject. There is no such campaign on the website of the NGO in Poland or on its social networks, nor any press release to this effect on the website of the football federation. CheckNews has not identified an Amnesty contact for Croatia, finalists of the last World Cup, and for Serbia. Their football federations, to our knowledge, have not issued a press release addressing the issue of respect for human rights in Qatar.

Norway and Finland: good relations with the NGO

These two countries, which did not pass the qualification phases, are among those which maintain good relations with Amnesty and which have made efforts, in particular by wearing T-shirts in tribute to human rights.

Conclusion

Of the thirteen European teams (England, Germany, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, France, Netherlands, Wales, Portugal, Poland, Serbia and Switzerland) qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, only players Germans and Belgians have actually been made aware through meetings with Amnesty. Such meetings are planned for the Netherlands and Denmark, while the English federation has chosen to make players aware of the plight of foreign workers in Qatar without going through the NGO. If it is therefore inaccurate to say that France is one of the only countries not to have responded favorably to Amnesty’s requests, the French federation is undeniably one of the most inert, to date, on the question.

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