Qatar on the defensive over World Cup worker abuse
DOHA - Qatar on Thursday described as "exaggerated" foreign allegations of the abuse of migrants working on football World Cup construction projects in the Gulf state, while vowing to take them seriously.
"These evaluations exaggerate the allegations reported in press articles," a foreign ministry spokesman said, quoted by the official QNA news agency.
After embarking on a multi-billion-dollar plan to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has come under the spotlight as migrant workers pour into the gas-rich nation.
The spokesman was referring to a damning report this week by Amnesty International which said migrant workers, most of them Asians, suffer "alarming" levels of exploitation, including non-payment of wages and hazardous working conditions as they toil to ready World Cup infrastructure.
He also referred to a vote expected on Thursday by the European Parliament on the situation of migrant workers in Qatar and to a report by the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, who visited the emirate this month.
"The Qatari government seriously takes allegations on working conditions in construction sites" linked to the World Cup, said the spokesman.
Doha "would gladly get involved in talks with members of the (European) Parliament" on the matter, he added.
He reiterated Doha's commitment to improve migrants' working conditions and its intention to take action against construction companies that do not respect workers' rights.
On Wednesday, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter was the latest to criticise the conditions of workers in Qatar as unacceptable, as football's governing body called for concrete steps by March to resolve the issue.
Qatar has said its labour laws are being amended, and that government inspectors are to receive more powers to enforce the legislation.