DOHA (AP) — Doha, Qatar has set the figure of deaths among workers for the World Cup tournament at between 400 and 500, a shockingly higher figure than any number previously provided by Doha.
The statement by Hassan al-Thawadi – secretary-general for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – appeared to be a casual observation during an interview with Piers Morison, a British journalist.
It threatened to renew criticism by human-rights groups over the costs of hosting the Middle East’s inaugural World Cup for Migrant Labor. The tournament required the construction of over $200 billion in stadiums, metrolines and infrastructure.
The interview was portioned by Morgan and posted online. The British journalist asked al-Thawadi the following question: “What’s the honest, realistic total you think about migrant workers who have died as a result – of the work they do for the World Cup in its entirety?”
“The estimate of 400 is about, and between 400 to 500 is approximately,” al-Thawadi replied. “I don’t know the exact number. This has been discussed.
However, Qatari officials have never discussed the figure publicly. From 2014 to the end 2021, reports by the Supreme Committee only show the deaths of workers who built and renovated the stadiums that will host the World Cup.
The total number of deaths is now 40, according to the figures. These deaths include 37 from nonwork incidents, such as heart attacks, as well as three workplace incidents. Another report mentions a worker dying from the coronavirus in the midst of the pandemic.
Al-Thawadi referred to these figures while discussing work only on stadiums during the interview. He then spoke out about the “between 400-500” death toll of all infrastructure for tournament.
Later, the Supreme Committee stated al-Thawadi meant “national statistics covering period 2014-2020 (414) nationwide in Qatar for all work-related deaths (414) across all sectors, covering all nationalities.”
In 2010, Qatar was awarded the FIFA World Cup. Since then, the country has taken steps to improve its employment practices. It has also eliminated the so-called kafala job system that tied workers to their employers. This allowed them to decide whether or not they wanted to leave the country.
Qatar also established a minimum monthly wage for workers of 1,000 Qataririyals ($275). It also provides food and housing allowances to employees who do not receive these benefits directly from their employers. To prevent worker deaths, the country has also revised its safety rules.
“One death can be a death too many.” “Plain and simple,” al Thawdi says in the interview.
Doha should do more to ensure workers are paid on time and protected from abusive employers, activists have urged
Al-Thawadi also raised questions about whether government and private businesses are reporting on worker injuries or deaths in the Gulf Arab states. These skyscrapers were constructed by South Asian laborers, including Sri Lankans, Pakistani, and India.
Nicholas McGeehan from Fairsquare, a London-based organization that advocates for migrant workers in Middle East, said “This is just another example of Qatar’s inexcusable failure to transparency on the issues regarding workers’ deaths.” “We need data that is accurate and thorough, not just vague numbers announced by media interviews.
“FIFA, Qatar, and other countries still have lots of questions to answer. Not only are there many questions about where, when, and what these men died but also whether their families were compensated.
Mustafa Qadri (executive director of Equidem Research), a labor consultancy, said that he was also surprised by al Thawi’s comment.
According to The Associated Press, “It’s shocking for him now to say there are hundreds,” he said. “They don’t understand what’s going down.”