Mar 27, 2014

Report predicts at least 4000 migrant workers will die in preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Report predicts at least 4000 migrant workers will die in preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. We have that debate every four years, but it’s usually about money. When it comes to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the cost will not only be in dollar terms ... it will be in lives.

The International Trade Union Confederation recently released an extensive report on the working and living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. It’s staggering.

There are about 1.4 million of those workers living in the Middle Eastern nation right now. A huge proportion of them are building stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup. And if labour conditions in Qatar don’t improve, “at least 4000” migrant workers could die before the tournament kicks off in eight years.

“I went on site this morning at 5am and there was blood everywhere,” says one worker quoted by the ITUC.

“I don’t know what happened, but it was covered up with no report. When I reported this, I was told that if I didn’t stop complaining, I would be dismissed.”

Other migrant workers are desperate to be dismissed, so to speak. They want to collect the pay they’re owed and leave the country.

“Our contract expired, yet the employer has not paid our salaries between one to three months, nor has he provided end of contract benefits or tickets home,” says one such worker.

“Each time we come to the office, it is always, ‘Come back in a couple of days and you will have your pay and tickets.’”

The workers are housed in cramped accommodation with terrible food and no clean drinking water, which is inhumane enough. But on top of that, they’re dying at a shocking rate.

The ITUC claims its estimate of 4000 deaths is a conservative one. It has calculated that figure using statistics from two embassies in Qatar — those of Nepal and India, whose nationals account for roughly half of the migrant workforce.

According to the Nepalese embassy, more than 400 of its citizens have died since Qatar won the right to host the World Cup in 2010. More than 700 Indians have died in the same period.

That adds up to about a thousand deaths in three years. If you assume the other half of the workforce is suffering casualties at a similar rate, the figure jumps to 2000.

Consider that in context. There are another eight years left before the 2022 World Cup, and the number of workers in Qatar is only increasing. So the estimate of 4000 deaths really does seem conservative.

This isn’t normal, by the way. According to the report, five workers have died so far in preparations for the 2018 tournament in Russia. Seven have died getting Brazil ready for this year’s World Cup. When South Africa hosted the last edition of the event, there were just two casualties.

Another independent report on the conditions of Qatar’s migrant workers is due to be published this week, and the nation has indicated it will indeed make some changes to its labour laws.

If the statistics we already have are anywhere near accurate, those changes need to be massive.