Jun 7, 2021
Since 2010, when the 2022 soccer world cup was awarded to Qatar, at least 6,750 migrant workers have died in this small oil emirate, which has been transformed into a massive construction site in preparation of the big sports event.
The figure of 6,750, which came out of an investigation by The Guardian, includes only workers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The actual number is probably much higher, considering that countries that have sent large numbers of workers to Qatar, such as the Philippines and Kenya, were not included in the investigation.
Qatari officials say the vast majority of deaths were unrelated to work, pointing to official causes such as heart attack and respiratory failure—without discussing, of course, why such ailments are so common in such a young work force. These officials have also turned a blind eye to the oppressive working conditions (construction workers toil 60–70 hours a week in scorching heat); as well as the lack of safety in migrant workers’ living quarters. One Bangladeshi worker, for example, was electrocuted because of an exposed electric wire at his dormitory—which could have been easily avoided if basic safety measures had been taken.
It’s not only Qatari officials who look the other way. Officials of FIFA, the international soccer federation that organizes the World Cup, have called the rate of work accidents and deaths in Qatar “low”—just like they have also been silent about the low wages and blatant exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar.
All these officials, local and international, see it as their job to enable the big contractors—the construction companies, sports suppliers, big media, etc.—to make huge profits off the World Cup. Workers’ lives be damned.