Amnesty International wants human rights guarantees at World Cups

FIFA and countries bidding to host the 2030 and 2034 World Cups should agree to binding commitments and legal reforms to prevent human rights violations connected to the tournament, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In October, soccer's world governing body awarded the 2030 World Cup to Morocco, Spain and Portugal while Saudi Arabia is the lone bidder for the 2034 edition, with Amnesty saying there are "serious human rights" risks that must be addressed.

"FIFA should ensure a rigorous and transparent bidding process, based on meaningful stakeholder participation, including genuinely independent human rights risk assessments and comprehensive human rights strategies," human rights organisation Amnesty said.

"FIFA should be prepared not to award the rights to host the World Cup until such agreements are made, and until it is clear that human rights violations can and will be prevented, mitigated and remedied."

Amnesty said the commitments must prevent human rights violations in relation to "labour rights, discrimination, housing, freedom of expression, policing and privacy" before finalising a decision to approve any bid.

FIFA had included human rights standards as part of the bidding requirements for the two World Cups, but Amnesty fears single bids for each tournament undercut their leverage to ensure there are no violations.

The football governing body had set a July deadline for the submission of bids for the 2034 World Cup, which will be evaluated later this year while the hosts will be officially appointed in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Amnesty said accident rates at construction projects in Spain and Portugal are above EU levels, while discrimination in stadiums in Spain is an issue as they highlighted the racism suffered by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr.

They also said Morocco and Portugal must increase the number of labour inspectors by over 50% to meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) benchmarks.

Amnesty said they have shared their report with FIFA. Reuters has contacted FIFA and the football associations of the countries bidding for the World Cup for comment.

Risks associated with hosting the 2034 tournament in Saudi Arabia are of a "different magnitude and severity" that will test FIFA's commitment to its human rights policies, Amnesty said.

Amnesty researcher Dana Ahmed said that although they were allowed to do research on migrant workers in Qatar, which hosted the 2022 World Cup, leading to several reforms, they have not had any access in Saudi Arabia.

"It is extremely difficult to do research from the outside," she told reporters.

Also on Wednesday, a global group of trade unions accused Saudi Arabia of abusing migrant workers in a complaint filed with a UN-backed labor organization.

The complaint filed by Building and Wood Workers' International urged the International Labor Organization to investigate Saudi Arabia for "severe human rights abuses and wage theft," which it said affected at least 21,000 workers over the past decade.

"The complaint emphasizes the exploitative living and working conditions among the country's vast migrant workforce -- conditions that BWI notes are akin to forced labor," the global group of trade unions said in a statement.

The BWI cited allegations of illegal recruitment fees demanded, wages and passports withheld, limits on workers leaving jobs, plus physical and sexual violence "particularly against female and domestic workers."

Reuters has contacted the Saudi Ministry of Sport for comment.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this story.