Concerns are being voiced over the rights and welfare of migrant workers in Qatar as the one-year countdown to the World Cup soccer finals has begun. Human rights groups say many workers have died as a result of the harsh conditions at construction sites for the facilities.
The FIFA World Cup, the first in the Middle East, is to kick off in the capital Doha on November 21, 2022. A countdown clock was put on display in Doha on Sunday.
The Qatar government says it hopes to attract 1.2 million spectators during the one-month event. But it faces the challenge of dealing with criticism of worker abuse.
Migrant workers have been constructing seven stadiums, a subway system, and roads and hotels. Many are from South Asian nations such as India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
But Amnesty International says thousands of such workers have died since 2010, when Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 tournament.
Amnesty says they were forced to work for long hours under intense heat. It also says there have not been any thorough investigations into the causes of their deaths.
The group is calling for improvements in working conditions, as well as revisions of work contracts that it says are favorable to employers. Similar calls have been made by countries vying to compete in the World Cup finals.
The executive communications director of a Qatar government committee for the event, Fatma Al-Nuaimi, says there is room to improve the working conditions.
She says she hopes to continue talks with international organizations and rights groups to do what can be done to improve the situation.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended a ceremony to set up the countdown clock in Doha. He said progress has been made to improve workers' rights, but further improvements are needed.
Infantino added that FIFA hopes the event will serve as a catalyst for "positive" social changes in the host country, suggesting it will urge Qatar to deal with the concerns.