EU criticizes conditions for World Cup workers

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By RAF CASERT, Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union parliament urged Qatar on Thursday to immediately stop any contractors from abusing the rights of migrant workers involved in building facilities for the 2022 World Cup.

"We cannot allow the 2022 World Cup to be built on slavery," said lawmaker Hannes Swoboda, head of the Socialist group in the parliament.

Thursday's resolution was the latest political pressure piled on Qatari authorities, and it came after FIFA President Sepp Blatter described the situation as "unacceptable."

The International Trade Union Confederation set off the growing furor two months ago when it claimed that — without changes in current labor conditions — at least 4,000 workers would die due to inhumane labor conditions.

In a 35-22 vote with 4 abstentions, the parliament insisted the alleged abuses should be fully investigated. It plans to send a fact-finding mission to Qatar next year.

FIFA immediately backed the EU call, saying it matched its own goal of ensuring that "the International Labour Organization's core labor standards are introduced quickly, consistently and on a sustained basis in Qatar."

Qatari organizers pledged earlier this week that companies building projects for the 2022 World Cup will be forced to guarantee welfare standards for workers.

Rights group Amnesty International has cataloged how some workers in the tiny Gulf nation are exposed to dangerous working conditions, poor living standards and the non-payment of wages.

Some EU legislators say FIFA should have taken action much earlier.

"FIFA must be reminded that it cannot continue to carry on with business-as-usual and brush the major human rights concerns in Qatar under the table," said Barbara Lochbihler, chairwoman of the European Parliament's committee on human rights

"FIFA must belatedly take concrete steps to ensure the preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar do not lead to further human rights violations," she said.

Ten EU nations and three other European nations — Russia, Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina — have qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, so the EU hopes to exert some leverage in Qatar.

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