Qatar Migrant Worker Deaths Cast Dark Shadow Over Already Troubled World Cup Tournament

The scrutiny on Qatar has reached a new level this week after World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi announced that hundreds

Qatar migrant worker deaths

The scrutiny on Qatar has reached a new level this week after World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi announced that hundreds of people have died working on projects connected to the prestigious tournament.

Qatar has been under fire for the way they violate human rights of LGBTQ people and women, but in the lead-up to the World Cup, advocacy groups began sounding alarm bells that migrant workers were being mistreated as the Middle East country hastily constructed infrastructure needed to host the prestigious soccer tournament.

As it turns out, those advocates were right – and the reality was even grimmer than anyone feared.


Qatar Migrant Worker Deaths Cast Shadow on Already Troubled World Cup

While advocacy groups have suggested that multiple migrant workers were mistreated and died while working on projects connected to the World Cup, we now know the scope of those deaths to some degree, although the real numbers are likely much higher.

Projects the workers were placed on included seven new stadiums, new hotels, and expanding the country’s airport, rail networks and highways.

World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi spoke with Piers Morgan this week and confirmed the deaths in connection to work done for the World Cup. Al-Thawadi told Morgan, “The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500 [people have died].

I don’t have the exact number, that’s something that’s been discussed. One death is too many, it’s as simple as that.”

Al-Thawadi added, “I think every year the health and safety standards on the sites are improving, at least on our sites, the World Cup sites, the ones that we’re responsible for, most definitely.”

CNN reports, “In November 2022, a government official told CNN there had been three work-related deaths on World Cup stadiums and 37 non-work-related deaths.

Those figures were reiterated by a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) on Tuesday. In a statement, the spokesperson added: ‘Separate quotes regarding figures refer to national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities.’

The Guardian, meanwhile, reported last year that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.

The report did not connect all 6,500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.”

In 2021, Al-Thawadi suggested that the numbers were sensationalized headlines taken out of context.

Last month, a Qatari government official told CNN, “The 6,500 figure takes the number of all foreign worker deaths in the country over a 10-year period and attributes it to the World Cup.

This is not true and neglects all other causes of death including illness, old age and traffic accidents. It also fails to recognize that only 20% of foreign workers in Qatar are employed on construction sites.”

However, Amnesty International suggests that as much as 90% of Qatar’s labor force is made up of migrant workers.

Migrant Workers Faced Harsh Conditions in Qatar Once World Cup Was Awarded to the Middle Eastern Country

The deaths are just one facet of the suffering migrant workers in Qatar have been dealing with in the past few years.

Migrant workers have faced delayed or unpaid wages, forced labor, long hours in gruelingly hot weather, employer intimidation, and an inability to leave their jobs because of the country’s sponsorship system, according to human rights organizations monitoring the situation.

Morgan questioned Al-Thawadi as to whether safety and health standards were sufficient for workers on the projects, to which the Qatari official replied, “I think overall the need for labor reform itself dictates that, yes, improvements have to happen.

Just so we’re clear, this was something that was recognized before we bid. The improvements that have happened aren’t because of the World Cup. These are improvements that we knew that we had to do because of our own values.”

Al-Thawadi continued, “The World Cup served as a vehicle, as an accelerator, as a catalyst because of the spotlight which we recognized early. It caused a lot of these initiatives not only in terms of improvement in the legislation, but in the enforcement of it as well.

And that’s where today we got to a position where our most ardent of critics consider us today to be a benchmark in the region.”

But while Al-Thawadi may call his country’s progress adequate, many around the world are crying foul.

The Qatar World Cup has been somewhat of a disaster from start to finish, from rising tensions between Iran and the rest of the world, last-minute reversals on alcohol policy from Qatari officials and the specter of human rights violations, it hasn’t been a carefree coming together of fans from around the globe.

Instead of bringing people together to celebrate a love of soccer and competition, this year’s World Cup has shone a shark light on the contrast between some elements of the world and the future people are hoping to achieve.

A future where people are paid fairly, treated humanely, and not arrested for their sexuality or gender.