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The Dark Reality Of Migrant Workers In Qatar

by Kareena Dodeja
The Dark Reality Of Migrant Workers In Qatar

February 27, 2021

Qatar will be hosting the 2022 World Cup. Preparations are in full swing, and it is leading to a mounting death toll of workers. 37 deaths alone occured a during stadium construction. Did all really die of "natural causes"?

A World Cup and Rising Death toll in Qatar

The Persian Gulf nation, Qatar, is gearing up to host the 2022 World Cup. However, an investigation by The Guardian found out that thousands of migrant workers have died in the country in the past decade.

Qatar has officially mentioned that they are enthralled to prepare for the World Cup. The preparation includes constructing seven stadiums, a new airport, and additional public transportation and hotels in Doha.

The investigation by paints another disturbing picture. The Guardian wasn’t given access to the occupational fatalities, but they found that 37 deaths occurred due to the stadium construction.

The publication also noted that five countries-India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, were behind when the data for the death of the workers was compared. The deaths took place between 2011 and late 2020, which means that 12 workers were dying each week on average in Qatar.

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Construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha, Qatar.

Human Rights Abuse in Qatar

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE rely on migrant workers who tend to voluntarily work from Asia and other parts of the world. The country in question, Qatar, has grabbed headlines previously for its human rights abuse and labour violations with International organisations.

The migrant labourers’ exploitation and abuse come as no surprise. According to the US department, they have reported that workers face violations such as beatings, sexual assault, restrictions on freedom of movement, and withholding of salaries. Their inhumane actions have made them face labour violations consistently.

The Guardian reported from government sources that 2,711 workers from India and 1,641 Nepali workers died in Qatar between 2011 and 2020. It does not stop here. There are over 1000 workers from Bangladesh who died in addition to this.

Even the Pakistan embassy stated that around 824 workers passed away in the last decade in Qatar. The records might have been imprecise, so it is difficult to find the exact number of deaths that have taken place in building the soccer stadiums. The tragic deaths only bring to light how unsafe and unstable it is for workers in Qatar.

May Romanos, a Persian Gulf region researcher, in a statement, suggests that Qatar should have strengthened its safety standards and protection mechanisms for the workers. The deaths and the rising toll is simply too disturbing not to.

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Migrant workers endangering their lives to build stadiums in Qatar during the pandemic

The Life Of Migrant Workers In Qatar

The Qatar authorities are reliant on the migrant workers, but they often exploit them with low pay and limit their rights. Most of the workers come from poor countries and are forced into a labour system that is brutal and exploitative. They are not even allowed to change their jobs without their employer’s permission.

Out of 6,500 deaths, 37 of them have been linked to the construction of the World Cup stadiums, as per The Guardian’s report. They try to conceal the deaths as ‘non-work related’, but the reality is most likely different.

Hailing from Bangladesh, Mohammad Shahid Miah was only 29-years-old when floodwater entered his room and exposing him to an electric cable, thus electrocuting him. This is one of the tragic incidents, and data is replete with instances where most of the deaths are caused among young workers. An added dimension to this tragedy is an irreparable loss a family must be facing back in the native country.

Another incident was of Madhu Bollapally from India, a 43-year-old healthy man who died of ‘natural causes’ in Qatar. He was found lying in his dorm room.

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The migrant workers cramped living quarters and lack of access to health care, proper sanitation, and nutritious food imperils an already highly vulnerable group of people

There is also a possibility that may be a significant portion of deaths could have occurred but weren’t reported. The causes of reported deaths were concealed as blunt trauma to asphyxia or hanging as the common cause of natural death.’ Nobody could find a legitimate medical explanation for the sudden deaths.

A Slow Improvement is in Process

The Qatar Government mentioned that the number of deaths is not proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce in a statement. They noted that most of the deaths have happened due to natural causes. But the question remains that according to details provided by the government, the pandemic hasn’t had a huge impact in Qatar. There are only 250 fatalities reported due to COVID. So, how are healthy, young migrant workers dying of “natural causes”?

Progress has been slow but consistent, as reported by Amnesty International. They reported that the working conditions in Qatar have been changing. Amnesty International partnered up with the International Labour Organisation to bring up fresh labour laws in 2017 . Later, in 2020, it eliminated the legal requirement of workers to need employer’s permission to leave the country or change jobs.

They have constituted the minimum wage to start from $275 a month. So, there has been some improvement, but so much more is yet to be resolved. Despite the progress, the death toll is still on the rise.

World Cup hype taking a toll

The World Cup is expected to be held in November-December because of the heat in Qatar. The opening and closing matches for World Cup will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium, which is currently being built up from scratch. All of the construction and upgrade is set to complete with the help of the migrant workers only.

Qatar’s population is less than 3 million, and they depend on over 2 million migrant workers for work. Yet, the statistics of deaths and mistreatments are simply petrifying.

The Guardian report is an eye-opener in highlighting the plight and alarming death rates of migrant workers in Qatar. There are definitely inconsistencies in the statistics as there is a reluctance to disclose the official number of deaths

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