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German cardinal urges fans to boycott World Cup in Qatar

Qatar's Ahmed Mohamed vies for the ball during a 2018 World Cup qualifier against China in Doha (AP)

A German cardinal has called for football fans to boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, if the event cannot be withdrawn from the Gulf Arab country.

Speaking to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung before Christmas Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, accused Qatar of enticing migrant workers to the country with false promises of high wages, then exploiting them and treating them “like animals”.

The cardinal, who according to the Tablet news weekly is a dedicated football fan, said he could not understand how the World Cup had been awarded to Qatar, as its treatment of migrant workers was well known. They are not allowed to belong to unions, and have poor housing and working conditions.

“On arrival, migrants have their passports taken away and are humiliated and dehumanised,” he said.

A report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in 2008 that the labour laws in Qatar, as in other countries in the Persia Gulf, were akin to modern-day slavery, while an Amnesty International report in 2013 said that migrant workers in Qatar were “treated like cattle”.

Freedom of speech in Qatar is severely limited; it is illegal to criticise the government or Islam. The state religion is very conservative Wahhabi Islam. Other religions are permitted, but proselytising is banned, and it is illegal to convert from Islam to another religion; this is apostasy, and is technically a capital offence, though no one has actually been executed for it.