DOHA, Qatar (AP), — Doha’s top official in Qatar’s World Cup organisation has placed the death toll for the tournament at “between 400-500”. This is a significantly higher figure than any previous Doha estimate.
The comment made by Hassan al-Thawadi (the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy), appeared off-the-cuff in an interview with Piers Morgan, a British journalist.
It threatened to reaffirm criticism from human right groups about the cost of hosting the Middle East’s first World Cup of Migrant Labor, which built more than $200 billion worth stadiums, metro lines, and other infrastructure required for the tournament.
The interview is with Morgan.
Al-Thawadi replies, “The estimate is between 400 and 500.” “I don’t know the exact number. It’s something that has been discussed.
Officials from Qatar have not discussed this figure publicly before. The number of deaths resulting from construction and renovation of the World Cup stadiums is not included in the Supreme Committee’s reports from 2014 to 2021.
These figures show that there have been 40 deaths. These include 37 deaths from non-work incidents like heart attacks, and three from workplace incidents. A separate report lists one worker who died from the coronavirus during the pandemic.
Al-Thawadi mentioned these figures in an interview discussing work on stadiums, just before he spoke of the “between 400 and 500” death toll for all infrastructure for the tournament.
The Supreme Committee stated that al-Thawadi refers to “national statistics covering 2014-2020 for all work related fatalities (414 nationwide in Qatar), covering all sectors, nationalities, and all sectors.”
The country has made some changes to its employment practices since FIFA granted the tournament to Qatar in 2010. This included eliminating the so-called kafala system of employment, which tied workers to employers and made it difficult for them to leave the country or stay.
Qatar has also adopted a minimum monthly salary of 1,000 Qatari Rial ($275), and employees who are not directly receiving these benefits must be provided with food and housing allowances. To prevent the occurrence of deaths, it has also updated its worker safety regulations.
“One death is one too many.” Al-Thawadi explains in the interview that it is simple.
Doha has been urged to do more by activists, especially when it comes to making sure workers get their wages on time and are protected against abusive employers.
Al-Thawadi’s comments also raise questions about the reliability of government and private business reporting on worker deaths and injuries in the Gulf Arab countries, whose skyscrapers were built by workers from South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India.
Nicholas McGeehan, Fairsquare, a London-based advocacy group for migrants in the Middle East said that this is the latest example Qatar’s inexcusable inexplicable lack of transparency regarding the issues of worker’s deaths. “We need accurate data and thorough investigations, not vague figures that are announced in media interviews.
“FIFA and Qatar have many questions to answer, not only where, when and how these men died, but also if their families received compensation.
Mustafa Qadri is the executive director at Equidem Research, a labor consulting firm that has published reports on the toll construction on migrant workers. He also stated that he was shocked by al-Thawadi’s comment.
He told The Associated Press that he was shocked by his colleague’s claim of hundreds. They don’t know what’s happening.”