Qatar World Cup Build’s Staggering Death Toll
More than 850 migrant workers have died in the past three years in Qatar since the World Cup announcement and rapid infrastructure build.
Indian and Nepalese migrant workers are two of the biggest demographics of the workforce in the Gulf state of Qatar. Their embassies have been supplying information in response to the quasi-slave conditions.
On average, 20 Indian workers die a month the embassy told the Agence France-Presse newspaper.
In response, the government-tied National Human Rights Committee in Qatar has said the Indian worker death rates are normal considering the half-million population now living in Qatar. He compared the rates to the native Qatar population as proof.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has said numbers are “extremely high”. They estimate up to 4,000 workers may perish before the first kick-off in 2022.
The ITUC, along with other human rights groups, blame the “kafala” system of employment. Kafala is Qatar’s system that ties a migrant worker's legal and work status to a single employer. The kafala system and the multi-layer contracting in place allows for poor work conditions without fear of complaint.
The ITUC has testified that workers face 12 hour days in the sweltering Middle East sun and live in squalid, over-populated worker camps without electricity and inadequate sanitation.
Nepal has claimed that two-thirds of the 400 dead workers died of heart failure or a workplace accident. India is trying to get a breakdown. The high percentages were not addressed by the Qatar National Human Rights Committee.
For its part, FIFA is now starting to feel and apply pressure. On Saturday, FIFA was in attendance at a European Parliament session on the matter. They acknowledged the poor conditions but did not take a stance to request a removal of the kafala system.
One witness, Zahir Belounis, spoke directly about the effect on football players. He became trapped in Qatar along with his family after his football club refused to sign his exit permit.
FIFA said that stripping Qatar of the World Cup tournament would be “counter-productive”. They said they would monitor the workers but no guarantees were put into writing.
With no adequate stadium already in place, the oil-rich Qatar is building everything from scratch. The fear of not having all of the facilities completed has already created speculation that another country may have to step in if the stadiums are not completed in time. With corruption allegations already floating long ago, there's no doubt this entire project has been a very difficult challenge for the small nation.
So far, the American media has been mostly mum of the reports. If a strong enough push could be made and pressure added to sponsors now, a change of Qatar conditions or a change of venue can be made.
In the meantime, FIFA will have to address it more constructively as the Brazil World Cup 2014 gets ready to start.
Brian Reddoch is a CraveOnline reporter and rabid fan of all teams Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter @ReddReddoch or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Getty