The general secretary of the Qatar 2022 Organization and Legacy Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, acknowledged this Monday that between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died in works related to the preparation of the World Cup. “The estimate is between 400 and 500 [fallecidos]. I don’t know the exact figure, which is being discussed now,” Al Thawadi said during a interview with Piers Morgan. Following Al Thawadi’s statements, the Supreme Committee of Qatar has released a statement stating that the figure refers to national statistics from 2014 to 2020 and covers all types of workplace fatalities in Qatar.
“Health and safety standards are improving,” the secretary general stated during the interview. “The need for labor reform dictated that the improvements had to come and, to be clear, the improvements that have been made are not because of the World Cup, but because we knew we had to. For our own values. The World Cup has served as an accelerator”.RELATED
This figure includes roads, hotels and all types of infrastructure. However, Al Thawadi maintains that only 40 people have died in the construction of the stadiums. Three of them directly for their work and another 37 for reasons “not related to work.”
Guardian published an investigation which revealed the death of 6,500 migrants from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka since the World Cup was awarded. The data, obtained from official sources in these countries, is not categorized by occupation or cause of death, but it is likely that many of them were working on infrastructure for the World Cup, the British outlet maintains. “The mortality rate in these communities is within the expected range for the size of the population,” the Qatari government claimed at the time.
The number of Guardian collects the total deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, however, Human Rights Watch denounces that “the authorities have not investigated the causes of death of thousands of migrant workers, many of them attributed to natural causes.” For their part, many of the workers have denounced physical violence from their supervisors, shifts of up to 14 hours a day, threats, unpaid wages, forced labor and poor food, among other things.
The country has been transformed since the World Cup was awarded in 2010 and the population has practically doubled. “85% are foreigners and a good part of them are workers, especially in the construction sector who have suffered clear conditions of labor exploitation,” says Ignacio Álvarez-Ossorio, professor of Arab and Islamic studies at the Complutense University of Madrid. and co-author of ‘Qatar: the pearl of the Gulf’ (Peninsula). Only one foreign group, the Indian, outnumbers the Qataris in their own land. It is one of the countries that hosts the smallest number of individuals with nationality in the world: only 12.5% (330,000) are Qataris
“The media attention of society, of the fans and even of the protagonists of the World Cup as players and coaches has helped to focus on something more than the tournament,” says Carlos de las Heras, head of the campaign on Qatar and an expert on sport and human rights at Amnesty International. “This pressure has led to some advances and legislative reforms improving the conditions of workers. However, many migrant workers have not yet benefited from these changes and will continue to be trapped in the vicious cycle of exploitation due to lack of implementation.”
Al Thawadi also referred to the demonstrations of support for the LGTBI community by the World Cup players and the controversy over the bracelets. “If they did it specifically for Qatar, yes I have a problem with it. If they did and they carried it consistently, it’s their call,” he said. “We have always said that everyone is welcome, even if we don’t agree on everything,” he added, explaining that it is “safe” for gays to be and live in Qatar.
Despite these statements, homosexuality is prohibited in the country and the Qatari ambassador for the World Cup, Khalid Salman, stated a few days ago that homosexuality is “mental damage.”
HRW has documented six cases of beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022 of LGTBI people. “As a condition of their release, security forces have forced trans women to attend conversion therapy at a government-supported ‘behavioral health’ center,” denounces the NGO.