DOHA (Reuters) - The head of soccer's world governing body FIFA sought on Friday to ease fears of human rights abuses in construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, announcing plans for a special group to monitor working conditions.
Gianni Infantino said Qatar, the tournament's first Arab host, supported the initiative. Efforts to ensure better welfare for workers were, he added, going in the right direction.
In a statement, Infantino said the FIFA-led monitoring group would be independent and include civil society representatives and "relevant FIFA stakeholders" to oversee all competitions.
"With regards to the composition, it will be defined in the coming days and we want to put it in place very, very soon," he told reporters in Doha after a two-day visit to the Gulf Arab state.
"We have to make sure that what we say will be delivered and that we have high profile persons," he added.
Amnesty International reported on abuses in Qatar's preparations for the World Cup in a wide-ranging report three weeks ago based on the accounts of 132 workers at the sites.
It found construction workers from Nepal and India had been charged recruitment fees and housed in squalid conditions.
The head of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Hassan al-Thawadi, has said Doha was working to reduce abuses he described as occurring on construction sites all over the world.
Infantino faces pressure from human rights groups to press for reform of labor laws in Qatar including its "kafala" sponsorship system, whereby employers effectively control a worker's freedom to leave the country.
Infantino said he had told Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani measures taken by Qatari authorities to ensure fair working conditions were going in the right direction.
"However, I made it very clear that it is essential for the Qatari authorities to ensure that the country complies to international standards on the treatment of workforce and to continue at full pace with the implementation of the promised measures," Infantino's statement said.
He said the hosting of the World Cup was an opportunity to set a benchmark for fair conditions for all workers in Qatar.
"FIFA and I will take the Qatari authorities at their word and I look forward to the concrete actions which will be the real testament of will," Infantino said.
(Reporting by Reuters Television, Writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Ralph Boulton)