Australia has become the first participating nation at next month’s FIFA World Cup to collectively protest for specific changes from the Qatar government in relation to the treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQI+ community.

Members of the Socceroos have called for Qatar to establish a migrant resource centre and remedy-seeking mechanisms for individuals whose rights have been infringed as well as decriminalising all same-sex relationships in order to “establish a lasting legacy” after the 2022 World Cup.

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“We stand with the likes of FIFPRO, the Building and Woodworkers International and the International Trade Union Confederation in seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar,” Sunderland defender Bailey Wright said.

“This must include establishing a migrants resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships,” St. Pauli midfielder Jackson Irvine added.

“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar.”

Since being awarded hosting rights to the tournament over a decade ago, Qatar has faced intense scrutiny over its treatment of migrant workers, its criminalisation of homosexuality and other human rights issues.

Members of both Australia’s men’s and women’s national teams have met on multiple occasions with Amnesty International, FIFA, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the International Labour Organisation, FIFPro and representatives of migrant workers in the lead-up to the tournament.

“We have learned that progress has been made both on paper and in practice,” Sydney FC defender Alex Wilkinson, who serves as president of the union, said.

“The Kafala system has largely been dismantled, working conditions have improved, and a minimum wage has been established.”

Wilkinson’s comments are followed by Nagoya Grampus goalkeeper Mitch Langerak saying that the implementation of these reforms, though welcome, “remains inconsistent and requires improvement.”

Australian player Josh Cavallo became the only openly gay top-flight male footballer in the world when he came out last October and expressed his reservations about the World Cup heading to Qatar in a recent interview with CNN Sport, saying “to see that we’re heading to a country that’s criminalising people like myself… It’s quite concerning.”

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Speaking in the Socceroos’ video, Toulouse midfielder Denis Genreau, who was a teammate of Cavallo’s in the Melbourne City academy, reiterated the squad’s support for LGBTQI+ people, saying “as players, we fully support the rights of the LGBTI+ people but in Qatar people are not free to love the person that they choose.”

Football Australia, which like Qatar is a member of the Asian Football Confederation, also released a statement on Thursday, echoing calls for a migrants worker centre.

“We acknowledge the significant progress and legislative reforms have occurred in Qatar over recent years to recognise and protect the rights of workers, and we encourage all stakeholders to continue this path to reform,” said Football Australia.

“However, we have also learned that the tournament has been associated with suffering for some migrant workers and their families.

“We believe that by working closely with these stakeholders, we can help promote a legacy beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. With this in mind, Football Australia, together with the Socceroos and Professional Footballers Australia, support the establishment of a Migrant Workers Centre that will continue to represent the rights of the workers beyond December 2022.

“Football Australia has also been working closely with LGBTI+ communities to continue strengthening our inclusive and welcoming environment in our game throughout Australia.”

Ten European football federations last month revealed their intention for their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design as part of an anti-discrimination campaign during international matches. Discussions are ongoing to explore whether the Socceroos could pursue a similar initiative.

Qatar has consistently pushed back against critics of its human rights record, insisting improved conditions and protections for migrant workers have been implemented and claiming criticism is outdated.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told the emirate’s legislative body in a televised address that Qatar “has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced.”

“The campaign tends to continue and expand to include fabrications and double standards that were so ferocious that it has unfortunately prompted many people to question the real reasons and motives,” Sheikh Tamim said.



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Australia call for Qatar to ‘establish a lasting legacy’ on human rights after World Cup

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