Report: More than 6,500 migrant workers have died during Qatar's World Cup prep

Jason Owens
·3-min read

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar amid the nation's preparation to host the 2022 World Cup, The Guardian reports.

The report cites government data from the home nations of migrant workers, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The data have been compiled since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010, working out to an average of 12 deaths per week, according to the report.

FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar despite widespread concerns over human rights violations and treatment of migrant workers. Amnesty International has since documented conditions of workers being "exploited" and "subjected to forced labor."

"They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country, and they often wait months to get paid," a report from the human rights organization states.

Guardian estimate: Actual death toll 'considerably higher'

According to The Guardian, 2,711 workers from India, 1,641 from Nepal, 1,018 from Bangladesh, 824 from Pakistan and 557 from Sri Lanka have died working in Qatar since 2010. The Guardian estimates that the actual death toll of migrant workers is "considerably higher" since the data it cites is limited to the listed countries.

The nation with a population of less than 3 million is depending on 2 million migrant workers to man its labor force. The Philippines and Kenya are among other nations to send migrant workers to Qatar, according to the report.

The listed causes of death include electrocution, blunt injuries due to a fall from height and suicide. Most of the deaths are listed as "natural" while citing heart or respiratory failure, according to the report.

Daytime temperatures in Qatar can approach 120 degrees during the summer. Normally played in the summer, Qatar's World Cup will be held in November and December because of the oppressive heat.

Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Workers walk toward the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 20, 2019. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Massive nationwide construction project, including a new city

Nick McGeehan of labor rights organization FairSquare Projects told The Guardian that World Cup construction accounts for much of the death toll.

“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,” he said.

Qatar has built or is building seven new stadiums in addition to significant infrastructure upgrades, including roadways, hotels and an airport in preparation to host the World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, a city being built from the ground up ahead of the World Cup.

Qatar: Death toll within 'expected range'

Qatar's government didn't dispute The Guardian's findings and characterized the death toll as "expected" in a statement to publication.

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

FIFA also provided a statement to The Guardian.

“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,” the statement reads, per The Guardian.

FIFA did not provide The Guardian with data to back up its claim.

Why do workers risk these conditions?

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers seek employment in Qatar to escape poverty and unemployment at home. It describes dirty living conditions with eight workers living in a single room once they arrive. Workers are sometimes promised one salary only to be provided a lower wage once they arrive.

The group spoke to workers who agreed to anywhere from $500 to $4,300 in recruitment fees to agents that left them in debt before they began working in Qatar.

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