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SBD Global/September 27, 2013/International Football

Agency: Qatar World Cup Construction Will Leave 4,000 Migrant Workers Dead

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Constructing Qatar's World Cup facilities could cost lives, an agency warns.
The Int'l Trade Union Confederation has claimed that Qatar's "construction frenzy" ahead of the 2022 World Cup "is on course to cost the lives of at least 4,000 migrant workers before a ball is kicked," according to Robert Booth of the London GUARDIAN. The ITUC "has been scrutinising builders' deaths in the Gulf emirate" for the past two years. The group said that "at least half a million extra workers from countries including Nepal, India and Sri Lanka are expected to flood in to complete stadiums, hotels and infrastructure in time for the World Cup kickoff." The annual death toll among those working on building sites "could rise to 600 a year -- almost a dozen a week -- unless the Doha government makes urgent reforms." While it admits that the cause of death "is not clear for many of the deceased -- with autopsies often not being conducted and routine attribution to heart failure -- it believes harsh and dangerous conditions at work and cramped and squalid living quarters are to blame." Workers described "forced labour" in 50C (122F) heat, employers who "retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water." ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, "Nothing of any substance is being done by the Qatar authorities on this issue" (GUARDIAN, 9/26).

EXPLOITING LABORERS: In London, Pete Pattisson reported dozens of Nepalese migrant laborers "have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses," citing a Guardian investigation. This summer, Nepalese workers "died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks." The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of laborers in Qatar, "face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery." The allegations suggest "a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders." The overall picture "is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world's most popular sporting tournament" (GUARDIAN, 9/25).

LUSAIL RESPONSE: Also in London, Mona Mahmood reported on the response to the World Cup "slaves" under the sub-headline "the company behind the Lusail City development, Qatar's 2022 World Cup organising committee and the labour ministry respond to allegations of worker exploitation." As its response, Lusail Real Estate Development Company wrote, "Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees." It added, "All of our subcontractors are legally obliged to meet, as a minimum, Qatar labour law. In addition, Lusail expects our subcontractors to go beyond the law in the protection of individual employees both in health & safety and labour law."

QATAR 2022 RESPONSE: The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee wrote, "The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee (Q22) is deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City's construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness. We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations." It added, "While construction on work relating directly to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar has not yet commenced, we have always believed that hosting the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar could be the catalyst for positive change, particularly for accelerating human and social development in Qatar. We firmly believe that all workers engaged on our projects, and those of the other infrastructure developers in Qatar, have a right to be treated in a manner that ensures at all times their wellbeing, safety, security, and dignity."

QATAR LABOUR MINISTRY: The Qatar Labour Ministry also answered several questions presented by the Guardian. Among them:

Q: Are the authorities aware of the numbers of Nepalese dying on their construction sites?
A: According to article 48 of Qatar Labour Law, No.14 of '04: "The employer shall record injuries incurred by any of its employees." According to article 108 of Qatar Labour Law, No.14 of '04: "If the worker dies while on duty or because of the work or sustains a work injury the employer or his representative shall immediately notify the police and the department of the incident."

Q: Why do so many young Nepalese die of heart attacks?
A: This question would be better suited for the relevant health authorities or the government of Nepal.

Q: Why do some building sites refuse to offer free water to workers?
A: All building sites in Qatar are required by Law to provide free water to workers. This is a requirement under Qatari Labour Law.

Q: Does Qatar allow workers to stop working if temperature rises above 45C (113F)?
A: Under the ministerial decree No. 16 of '07, the working hours were limited in the open places under the sun during the summer period and the Department of Labour prevented the employment of the workers for more than five hours in the morning and it must not exceed 11.30 am as well as the evening working hours must not start before 3pm (GUARDIAN, 9/25).

FIFA 'APPALLED': In London, Owen Gibson reported FIFA VP Jim Boyce has said he is "appalled and very disturbed" by the findings of the Guardian's investigation. Boyce called for "an immediate investigation into the deaths" of dozens of Nepalese workers and the "ill treatment of thousands of others." Boyce: "I was appalled and very disturbed after reading the allegations in the newspaper this morning. FIFA must investigate this information immediately and report the full findings at the earliest opportunity to the FIFA executive committee" (GUARDIAN, 9/26). Also in London, Oliver Kay reported that FIFA is “very concerned” by reports of abuse of migrant workers in Qatar, its "highly controversial choice as host nation for the 2022 World Cup." Amid accusations that Nepalese workers are being subjected to “systematic forced labour” in Qatar, the FIFA exec committee has "pledged to discuss the matter at their next meeting in Zurich" on Oct. 3-4 as "doubts grow about the ethical -- as well as the practical -- possibility of staging the World Cup in the tiny Arab nation" (LONDON TIMES, 9/26). On its official FIFA Media Twitter account, the governing body wrote, "FIFA is very concerned about media reports regarding labour rights & construction worker conditions at Lusail City, Qatar. (1/2)." It added, "FIFA will again be contacting the Qatari Authorities. These reports will also be discussed at the Executive Committee on 3/4 October. (2/2)" (TWITTER, 9/26).
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