More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022
The fact that migrants are being exploited in the building of the Qatar World Cup 2022 is not a new discovery. However, a recent report by the Guardian has revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar during the construction of Qatar World Cup infrastructure including stadiums, an airport, roads, public transport, hotels and an entire new city. The majority of these workers came to Qatar from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The Guardian report unveiled that an average of 12 migrant workers have died each week since 2010. The official cause of death in most cases was said to be “natural causes”. Based on data obtained by the Guardian, 69% of deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers were categorised as natural. Among Indian migrants, this increases to 80%. Despite the fact that almost none of these workers had prior underlying health conditions, the Qatari Government stated that “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.”
As well as revealing the shocking statistics of the deaths of these workers, the Guardian report described a number of case studies of individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by the devastating data coming from Qatar. The family of Ghal Singh Rai from Nepal paid over €1,000 in recruitment fees for his job as a cleaner in a camp for workers building one of the stadiums. He took his own life less than a week after his arrival to Qatar. Ghal’s father had sensed that something was wrong and told his son to come home if he could not handle the stress and conditions of the job. Another worker, Mohammad Shahid Miah from Bangladesh, was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came into contact with exposed electricity cables. The family of Indian worker Madhu Bollapally cannot comprehend how the healthy 43-year old died of “natural causes” while working in Qatar. He had already passed away when he was found by his roommate lying on their dorm room floor. His family, including a 13 year old son, received around €1,300 in compensation and his salary was not paid.
In an NPR Podcast Interview, the journalist who conducted the Guardian report, Pete Pattisson, explained that these figures do not include those who are injured or collapse on construction sites and died after they are taken off-site or those who die in road traffic accidents on the way to or from work in a company bus. He also explained that autopsies are very rare, and that although the long hours and extreme heat play a role in the high number of deaths, the picture is incomplete and there is more at play here. Often the workers live in terrible conditions in camps far away from work, with 8-12 people sharing a room. Pattisson described the World Cup as a “catalyst” for the history of abuse of migrant workers in the Middle East.
Although there have been reformations of labour laws in Qatar that mean workers no longer need permission from their employer if they want to change jobs, the Shura council of Qatar have put forward a number of recommendations that would remove this and other reformations that have been put in place. In a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Amnesty International calls for FIFA to use their influence on the Qatari government to ensure that all of the proposed labour reforms are fulfilled. A spokesperson for Amnesty stated that FIFA “must act now to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is a tournament to be proud of, and not one tainted by labour abuses.” The European Parliament has questioned Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on his views surrounding the Guardian report, and what actions will be taken surrounding the report.
“The company, which supplied grass for the World Cup in Germany (2006), the European Championship in Switzerland (2008) and the European Championship in France (2016), withdrew their services due to the inhumane conditions and human rights violations faced by migrant workers in Qatar.”
Dutch Company ‘Hendriks Graszoden’ was set to supply grass sod for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. A spokesperson for the company explained that their decision to withdraw is “certainly a loss for the company. But sometimes you have to make a decision on ethical grounds. ”
Football players around the world have stood in protest of the human rights violations evident in Qatar. Norway, Germany and Netherlands footballers have protested Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers. Norweigan players wore t-shirts stating “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “On and off the pitch”. The Netherlands team wore t-shirts with the words “Football supports change” written on them. German players wore black t-shirts with a letter each spelling out “HUMAN RIGHTS”. However, officials from its football association stated that it was opposed to boycotting the World Cup. Belgium manager Roberto Martínez has also stated that boycotting the World Cup would be a “big mistake”. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have been urged by Amnesty International Ireland and Bohemian F.C. to take a stance and put pressure on FIFA to use its position to protect migrant workers.
Despite these protests and calls for reform, FIFA have not spoken up about this issue and migrant workers continue to be exploited and killed in preparation for the Qatar World Cup 2022.