Tuesday, 22 November 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
79. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the Government's advice to any football supporters travelling from Ireland to Qatar for the World Cup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57922/22]
144. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if additional diplomatic assistance is available in Qatar for the duration of the World Cup for any Irish persons who may have travelled and subsequently encounter difficulty in that state; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57722/22]
I am looking for the Government's advice for football supporters who have travelled or may travel to Qatar for the World Cup. It is very difficult to get over the fact that the World Cup is being held at this time of year. Questions have been raised on how the tournament ended up being in Qatar. The questions are fairly obvious as regards FIFA. We are all aware of the treatment of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar, as well as the disgraceful way migrant workers have been dealt with. We would probably all agree with Roy Keane in respect of the failure of some people to mark these issue.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 144 together.
My Department is liaising closely with EU and international partners to provide the most accurate advice possible for citizens travelling to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Comprehensive World Cup travel advice for Qatar is available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and citizens are urged to consult this for information on entry requirements, safety and security, local laws and customs etc. Before departure and during travel, citizens are advised to monitor this advice and to follow the Department on social media for the latest updates. The Government advises all citizens travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to obtain travel insurance prior to departure.
For the duration of the tournament, the Embassy of Ireland in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, which is accredited to Qatar, will have a presence on the ground in Qatar to provide consular assistance to any Irish citizens who may require it. Any Irish citizen requiring consular assistance while in Qatar, can make contact through the Embassy of Ireland in the UAE. Details of the phone number is available on the website.
We are putting a system in place that can help Irish citizens if they get into trouble or if they need advice on the ground. As ever, when travelling to a country that has very different customs and laws to what we are used to in Ireland, people should inform themselves before they travel. Of course, if there are difficulties on the ground, we will be there to help and support Irish citizens.
I welcome that. I get many football fans might see this as an opportunity to see Brazil play. I assume not too many will wish to see England play but who knows? It is obviously vital fans would monitor advice and it is good to see consular assistance will be in place. However, I will go through the questions again and ask about the view of the Minister and the Government. There is a certain element of dismay that the World Cup is in Qatar but FIFA has many questions to answer over many years. There are the particular issues in Qatar which include the treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community and the absolutely disgraceful treatment of migrant workers. I will put it out there; is the Minister in agreement on what Roy Keane said? There probably was a failure by many from a football point of view, in that they could have at least marked this. There are particular issues that need to be dealt with.
I thank the Minister for his response. The reason I put down this question is my concerns about Irish citizens who might travel to Qatar for the World Cup and may not be used to the situation there. Even though we are not qualified for the World Cup, Irish fans may travel. There are very few sporting events around the world where one would not see a fella wearing a Kerry jersey. It is only a matter of time before we see one on the television screens and I share Deputy Ó Murchú's concerns. My first concern is over the awarding of the World Cup which I believe was born out of complete corruption. My second concern is over the treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community at this World Cup and, of course, it goes with out saying, the treatment of migrant workers in the run-up to the World Cup as well. The Minister cannot solve those problems but I thank him for his response and it is obvious the Department has been proactive in putting people on the ground. It is welcome and certainly allays my concerns.
There are a number of human rights issues of concern with regard to Qatar including its treatment of migrant workers, as people have said, women's rights, LGBT+ people and, of course, the use of the death penalty. Promoting respect for human rights is one of the core principles of Irish foreign policy. In countries where we have concerns over human rights, including Qatar, we raise these concerns very clearly both in direct contacts with the governments of those countries and in the appropriate international forums. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs regularly raise concerns bilaterally with the Qatari authorities. Ireland regularly discusses these issues in various EU forums and works closely with other member states to ensure human rights issues in Qatar are addressed.
Since 2018, the EU has held four formal human rights dialogues with Qatar including, most recently, on 13 September in Brussels where the EU underscored the importance of safety for LGBTQI+ persons and labour rights in the context of the World Cup. The EU also liaises with the International Labor Organization, ILO, on these issues and I am pleased that the ILO office in Doha will continue to operate there after the World Cup. Ireland also addresses these issues in international forums, notably at the UN Human Rights Council.
In 2019, at Qatar's most recent universal periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ireland called on the Qatari Government to abolish the exit permit requirement for migrant workers. I was pleased Qatar moved to end this requirement in January 2020. Qatar has made some notable labour reforms, including to its kafala labour system, but these reforms must be sufficiently implemented and permanent in order for them to be meaningful. Other issues raised at the periodic review of Qatar's human rights record included discrimination and violence against women, the death penalty and migrant workers' rights.
I absolutely understand the scepticism and concern that have been expressed in the context of hosting this World Cup but I can reassure the Deputies that we have raised the issues in the build-up to the World Cup on all of the platforms on which we have an opportunity to do so. This is not just an issue about the World Cup. Qatar is not the only country in the world where we have concerns with regard to human rights abuses and so on. However, of course, when one hosts something as enormous as the World Cup, one has to expect the international spotlight to be on one and on how one treats people and visitors. That is why Qatar is now under that spotlight.
I agree with the Minister. The one good thing that can come from this World Cup is that the spotlight is on Qatar, the human rights abuses there and whether we will have any movement on it. However, I wish to see a greater level of courage from some of the football associations and some of the footballers in particular. There was considerable talk beforehand about what they would do to highlight these issues. That has not happened. I welcome that the Government has drawn attention to the human rights abuses across the board on many occasions. That needs to happen. This will leave a deep stain. Western hypocrisy will be thrown out many times but it is straightforward to say I am not just sure Qatar is where this World Cup should be happening. I suppose FIFA has the biggest questions to answer but we need to highlight the changes that need to happen. That is the only good that can come out of this. Unfortunately, it will probably impact on the enjoyment of the World Cup as a football spectacle.
I appreciate the Minister has raised concerns about the broader issues at play here. My most immediate and pragmatic concern is that any Irish fans who travel, from this country or others, to the group stages or the subsequent knock-out stages in the coming weeks should, first, be well-advised before they travel about what is expected of them and the potential risks. Second, we have seen people get into trouble in countries such as Qatar through no fault of their own and support should be there. It is important the support remains on the ground right up to the end.
I encourage the Minister to engage with the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, with regard to disseminating some of the information to its grassroots level platforms and as many other levels as possible to reach soccer supporters who are based here and our diaspora. We certainly do not wish to see any of the Irish football supporters, who travel to that country to enjoy the World Cup, getting into trouble and finding themselves in difficult positions. That said, many people find themselves in trouble through no fault of their own in countries such as Qatar. We need to avoid that as much as possible.
Our consular team is ready and waiting to support people if they need it. The team is second to none internationally. We do not have an embassy in Qatar but we have an embassy very close by and a team on the ground in Qatar to help Irish citizens should that be required. With regard to the links between sport and politics on this issue, in some ways, it is unfair to criticise players. They are sports people rather than politicians. Of course if they wish to make a political statement, they should be allowed to do so as should anybody else. However, it is absolutely extraordinary that FIFA has effectively chosen to lean on national football associations in different countries to prevent players wearing an armband to support LGBT+ rights. That is a political intervention by FIFA to limit freedom of expression, which is worthy of significant mention and criticism.
We will talk to Qatar about the whole other range of issues. That part of the world is very different from this part of the world and one will see these tensions when there is a clash of civilisations and so on. However, to say a player who wishes to wear a rainbow-coloured armband in the context of the concerns they may have about LGBT rights in that part of the world or, indeed, any other rights that are consistent with international law will be punished on the pitch is, from a FIFA point of view, pretty poor form to put it mildly. However, that is what we have seen in an effort to try to avoid even a small symbol of political concern in the context of some of the issues that have been raised in the build-up to this World Cup. It is very regrettable and shows FIFA in a pretty poor light to say the least.