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Qatar World Cup organisers hit back at Australia rights criticism

Qatar’s World Cup organisers on Thursday hit back at criticism of the Gulf state’s rights record by the Australian football team, insisting that “no country is perfect”.

In response to the Australian call for better treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community, a World Cup spokesperson said imposing “robust” labour laws had also been a “challenge” for Australia.

“We have committed every effort to ensuring that this World Cup has had a transformative impact on improving lives,” the organisers’ Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.

“Protecting the health, safety, security, and dignity of every worker contributing to this World Cup is our priority.”

Sixteen members of Australia’s football men’s team appeared in a short video on Thursday explaining their position.

They acknowledged Qatar’s attempts to improve conditions for migrant workers but said the changes had been “inconsistent”.

“We have learned that the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in the suffering and harm of countless of our fellow workers,” said midfielder Jackson Irvine, in a video in which 16 players gave comments.

The Qatari committee highlighted reforms on construction site safety and labour conditions that have been carried out in the past five years.

These have been praised by international unions and FIFA, though all have called for more progress.

“New laws and reforms often take time to bed in, and robust implementation of labour laws is a global challenge, including in Australia,” added the spokesperson.

“No country is perfect, and every country — hosts of major events or not — has its challenges.”

The Football Australia governing body urged the energy-rich Gulf state to take a softer stance on same-sex relationships. Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Qatar.

The Qatari committee did not mention LGBTQ rights, but the spokesperson said: “This World Cup has contributed to a legacy of progress, better practice, and improving lives — and it’s a legacy that will live long after the final ball is kicked.”

Captains from a number of leading European football nations — including England, France and Germany — will wear armbands with rainbow colours and the message “One Love” in an anti-discrimination campaign during the World Cup.

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