Qatar, FIFA, and Labor Exploitation – My Senate Testimony

“… in the most extreme examples, foreign migrant workers have become suicidal after being trapped without pay by employers in Qatar. They have been forced to depend on charity from others simply to eat. Meanwhile, their family members in poor communities in their countries of origin can face eviction and other serious challenges…”

US Senate Testimony on Qatar Labor Exploitation by Sunjeev Bery
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

Hearing - 2015-07-15 - Qatar FIFA - Senate - Sunjeev Bery

“Examining the Governance and Integrity of International Soccer”
July 15, 2015
Verbal Remarks (PDF) / Written Testimony (PDF)Hearing Page / CSPAN Video

Media:  New York Times (1, 2), GuardianUSA TodayReutersBloombergVice NewsMcClatchy DC, Roll Call

Full Text of Verbal Remarks:

“Chairman Moran, Ranking Member Blumenthal, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, and distinguished guests: On behalf of Amnesty International, thank you for the opportunity to address the issue of human rights in Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has brought into global focus the shocking conditions that are routine for migrant workers in Qatar.

Under Qatar’s Kafala employment sponsorship system, foreign migrant workers cannot change employers or leave Qatar without the permission of their current employer. Even if an employer is not paying the employee, the employer can still block the employee from changing jobs or leaving the country.

In 2012, the Qatar National Research Fund funded a survey of some 1,000 low-income labor migrants: Continue reading

Quoted: “Qatar leans on K Street connections” in The Hill (Washington DC)

“No amount of PR or lobbying can obscure the underlying realities of labor abuse and exploitation in Qatar. The government of Qatar should invest its resources in fixing these problems, not in trying to hide them from other governments,” said Sunjeev Bery, the advocacy director for Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

(From Qatar leans on K Street connectionsBy Megan R. Wilson, The Hill, 06/09/15)

Qatar leans on K Street connections

45 Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Stand Up for Human Rights in Gulf Monarchies

45 Members of Congress just sent the following letter to President Obama today.  The letter urges him to stand up for human rights in his meetings this week with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.   These countries make up the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Amnesty International USA and a diverse range of organizations worked to build support for the effort.

Letter in PDF:

Letter to President Obama

Text of Letter:

Continue reading

Destroying Boats is Not the Answer for Libya’s Refugees and Migrants

Today I spoke with Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR and WBUR’s “Here and Now” on why European proposals to destroy boats won’t help refugees and migrants who are escaping ‪#‎Libya‬:



Will a US citizen get a life sentence tomorrow in Egypt?

U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan is wrongfully imprisoned in Egypt and on hunger strike.  Mr. Soltan is at risk of receiving life imprisonment tomorrow on trumped up charges and for so-called “crimes” that are not recognized under international standards and human rights law.

Mohamed Soltan

Will the Obama Administration do more than just privately push for his release?  There is no indication that Egyptian officials are going to resolve his case in a positive manner without increased public pressure.

Read our Amnesty International letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

Mr. Soltan is a dual US-Egypt national who was arrested in August 2013 as part of a sweeping crackdown on supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.  During his wrongful imprisonment, he had to undergo a medical procedure by a cellmate without anesthesia or sterilization to remove the supporting metal pins from his arm.  Prison authorities had refused to have him transferred to a hospital to receive proper medical care.


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