DOHA: Nepal has said that 70 of its migrant workers constructing facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have died on building sites since the start of 2012.
The figure includes 15 labourers who travelled from the Himalayan state and were killed on sites this year. It represents the clearest official data yet on the danger facing migrant workers in the Gulf kingdom. The figures were released yesterday in Doha at a joint press conference held by the Nepali government and the Qatar authorities in which they denied reports in The Guardian about the dangers facing Nepali workers from brutal working conditions, long hours, lack of food and pay and squalid living quarters.
Mohammad Ramadan, a legal adviser employed by the Nepal government for Nepali nationals in the gas-rich state, said that ‘all Nepali workers are safe and fully respected’ but officials cited data from the Nepal embassy that revealed 276 Nepalis died in Qatar last year, of whom 20 per cent were on building sites. The rest died of natural causes and in accidents not at the workplace, he said. So far this year, 151 Nepalis have died and one in 10 of those deaths occurred on building sites. There are 340,000 Nepali workers in Qatar among a migrant workforce estimated at 1.2 million, most of whom work the $100bn construction drive ahead of the World Cup.
If the number of dead were extrapolated across all migrant workers it would suggest that more than 200 foreign workers could have died on Qatari construction sites in the last 21 months.
The Guardian last week reported that documents showed 44 Nepali workers died between June 4 and August 8 this year and that more than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents. It said evidence of exploitation and abuses pointed to ‘modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation’.
“We deny all that is mentioned in these false reports, and ask the bodies that publish them not to use Nepali workers as a means to achieve their inappropriate targets and agendas,” said Ramadan. “There is no slavery or forced labour in Qatar,” said Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri, chairman of Qatar’s national human rights committee, who claimed that information cited by The Guardian was false and the numbers exaggerated.