Over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it won right to host World Cup

Khalifa International Stadium, Doha. Credit: Noushad Thekkayil / Shutterstock.com

More than 6,500 migrant workers from the subcontinent have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, according to official figures.

The Guardian, which crunched the figures, reports that official data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in the period 2011–2020. And data from Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers between 2010 and 2020.

However, the total death toll is significantly higher as these figures do not include deaths from a number of countries which send large numbers of workers to Qatar. Deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.

In the past 10 years, Qatar has embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the football tournament in 2022. In addition to seven new stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed or are under way, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels and a new city which will host the World Cup Final.

Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf, said: “A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup.”

Qatar continues to “drag its feet on this critical and urgent issue in apparent disregard for workers’ lives,” added Hiba Zayadin, Gulf researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We have called on Qatar to amend its law on autopsies to require forensic investigations into all sudden or unexplained deaths, and pass legislation to require that all death certificates include reference to a medically meaningful cause of death.”

The Qatari government says that the number of deaths – which it does not dispute – is proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce and that the figures include white-collar workers who have died naturally after living in Qatar for many years.

“The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country,” the Qatari government said in a statement by a spokesperson.

The official added that all citizens and foreign nationals have access to free first-class healthcare, and that there has been a steady decline in the mortality rate among “guest workers” over the past decade due to health and safety reforms to the labour system.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Fifa, football’s world governing body, said it is fully committed to protecting the rights of workers on Fifa projects. “With the very stringent health and safety measures on site … the frequency of accidents on Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world,” they said.

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