Football Cheers at the Dark Side of the Qatar World Cup

Criticism intensifies as the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar gets underway. Human rights advocates, lawmakers, soccer fans, and the media claim that 6,500 if not 15,000, people died due to the soccer event. But are the figures accurate?

There has been discussion about Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and the human cost of the event ever since it hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Numerous estimates exist regarding the number of workers who have passed away on the World Cup building sites in Qatar, but it is challenging to determine the exact number.

The fans of the game have not let this go out of their radar and have shown up to games with signs in memory and honor of those workers. 

“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.”

Nick McGeehan – Director, FairSquare

Tracing The Workers

At least 6,500 workers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan have perished in Qatar since 2010, according to a Guardian investigation into migrant worker fatalities. The data, which was gathered through government sources, exclude statistics from some significant sending countries to Qatar (such as the Philippines or Kenya), as well as the latter months of 2020, thus the overall death toll is probably greater.

Though the exact occupations of these workers weren’t listed in said report, it can easily be assumed that they were there for the infrastructure and other organizational jobs for the famous football cup.  The report previously gave a classification of deaths as “natural causes” or “sudden heart failure”, but fails to give a legitimate cause of these deaths. Qatar workers who have been under outdoor employment have faced death due to the extreme heat stress before, but the report says differently. 

34 of the 37 deaths of construction employees directly associated with building World Cup stadiums have been deemed “non-work related” by the organization of the event. The term’s use has drawn criticism from experts since it has occasionally been used to describe occupational fatalities, such as the number of workers who have collapsed and died on stadium construction projects.

Health vs Weather 

Migrant Workers in Qatar are supposedly healthy upon arrival-  based on the mandatory health check. In addition, regardless of their background or line of work, foreign workers in Qatar are typically healthy individuals who must pass a set of medical exams to be granted a visa. This process weeds out potential applicants with infectious diseases like AIDS/HIV, hepatitis B, and C, syphilis, or tuberculosis.

Also excluded from these data are migratory workers who pass away after returning to their native nations. The frequency of fatal renal failure cases among males aged 20 to 50 in Nepal has increased significantly over the past ten years, according to the authorities there. Many of these men had recently returned from working in the Middle East.

Medical experts in Nepal believe that this can be explained by the harsh Gulf weather conditions mixed with the shortage and poor quality of drinking water that affected people have experienced.

Officials Perspective

The International Labour Organization (ILO), however, maintains that this is an understatement. Although heart attacks and respiratory failure are common signs of heatstroke brought on by performing strenuous labor in extremely hot conditions, Qatar does not count these deaths as being related to the workplace.

It has generated its statistics for World Cup-related occurrences using data gathered from Qatar’s government-run hospitals and ambulance services.

According to the report, in 2021 alone, 50 foreign workers lost their lives and more than 500 others suffered catastrophic injuries. Another 37,600 people were hurt slightly too badly.

Human Rights And Qatar

Back in 2010, when Qatar hosted a previous season of the World Cup, several human rights communities criticized the country for its arrangements and treatment of foreign workers. According to a 2016 report, the workers lived in “squalid accommodation” while their passports were taken away. 

The government has implemented measures since 2017 to prevent foreign employees from laboring in extreme heat, limit their hours of work, and improve the circumstances in workers’ camps.

Human Rights Watch, a campaign organization, claimed in a study dated 2021 that foreign workers continued to experience “punitive and illegal salary deductions” and “months of unpaid wages for long hours of punishing labor.”

In the past, Qatari businesses used a “kafala” system in which they funded foreign workers’ entry into the nation but forbade them from quitting their jobs once they were there.

We deeply regret all of these tragedies and investigated each incident to ensure lessons were learned. We have always maintained transparency around this issue and dispute inaccurate claims about the number of workers who have died on our projects.

Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

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