Protesters demonstrate in central London earlier this year amid reports that thousands of migrant workers are expected to die working on construction in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
Construction on developing stadiums, hospitality venues and infrastructure in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup is reportedly going to cost the lives of some 4,000 migrant workers who have traveled to the country for employment, according to a report Thursday from the Guardian citing a claim from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
At least 500,000 people from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and other countries in the region will travel to Qatar to begin construction for the FIFA World Cup. Approximately 12 people per week are expected to die "unless the Doha government makes urgent reforms," incuding changes to living quarters for the workers, according to the report, which details some of the conditions under which migrant workers have suffered in the past in Qatar:
Workers described forced labour in 50C (122 degrees Fahrenheit) heat, employers who retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water. The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions and hunger has been reported. Thirty Nepalese construction workers took refuge in the their country's embassy and subsequently left the country, after they claimed they received no pay.
Sharan Burrow, general secretary for the ITUC, said she met with the Qatari labor minister in Geneva and officials at the Qatar 2022 supreme committee but indicated that not enough is being done to prevent the thousands of deaths projected between now and 2022 because of the construction, according to the Guardian report:
"Nothing of any substance is being done by the Qatar authorities on this issue ... The 2022 World Cup is a very high profile event and should be implemented with the very highest standards and that is clearly not the case ... FIFA needs to send a very strong and clear message to Qatar that it will not allow the World Cup to be delivered on the back of a system of modern slavery that is the reality for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers there today."
Qatar is expected to spend upwards of $100 billion on construction for the World Cup. In response to the findings from the ITUC and the Guardian, a Qatar 2022 committee spokesperson said the evidence supporting those claims, including videos, images and texts, is "appalling" and that the health of every worker contributing to the World Cup will remain of "utmost importance."
"Like everyone viewing the video and images, and reading the accompanying texts, we are appalled by the findings presented in the Guardian's report," the spokesman said. "There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner...The health, safety, wellbeing and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar."