Migrant Worker Deaths in Qatar

Qatar has spent 16 times as much money as the previous host country Russia. The disparity in spending is because Qatar is relying on the World Cup. The World Cup creates thousands of jobs for workers and brings in over a million people, boosting the country’s tourism revenue. Due to the magnitude of economic benefit to Qatar, the country should be closely monitored regarding the health and safety of migrant workers that build the facilities for the World Cup.

Hassan al-Thawadi is the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy the organization in charge of coordinating the World Cup in Qatar. In a recent interview, al-Thawadi admitted to the deaths of 400-500 migrant workers stemming from projects connected to the World Cup infrastructure development. He claimed the previous estimate of 6,500 deaths was a “sensational headline.” This directly contrasts with a Qatari government official who confirmed the 6,500 migrant deaths were connected to the World Cup. Officials have now come out saying that the figure 6,500 refers to all migrant deaths in Qatar in the past 10 years, not just migrants working on projects for the World Cup.

The reason for these deaths is the abysmal working conditions in Qatar. Workers are forced to work in extreme heat for long hours and are subjected to punishment if they complain. Also, migrant workers received no payment for their work, were forced to pay recruitment fees, and live in unsanitary conditions. These workers are unable to leave this situation because their passports are confiscated. These conditions are due to the kafala system, which allows companies to hire migrant workers and prevent them from leaving their jobs. Despite the kafala system’s criminalization, the practices that encompass the system persist due to a lack of enforcement.

While the future may seem bleak for Qatari workers, organizations are working diligently working to improve working conditions in Qatar. One example of this is Amnesty International, a global movement campaigning for civil rights in more than 150 countries. Amnesty is trying to force FIFA to establish a “comprehensive remediation program” to help exploited workers receive their unpaid wages. Hopefully, these efforts will help to end the exploitation of workers that has enveloped the World Cup.