Migrant workers from Nepal in Qatar building facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup are dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014, according to a new report from The Guardian. The report continues:
The Nepalese foreign employment promotion board said 157 of its workers in Qatar had died between January and mid-November this year — 67 of sudden cardiac arrest and eight of heart attacks. Thirty-four deaths were recorded as workplace accidents.
Figures sourced separately by the Guardian from Nepalese authorities suggest the total during that period could be as high as 188. In 2013, the figure from January to mid-November was 168.
The report suggests the total migrant worker death rate is likely higher, as well, since the figures The Guardian was able to obtain do not include deaths of migrant workers of other nationalities, commonly Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi.
“If fatalities among all migrants were taken into account the toll would almost certainly be more than one a day,” the Guardian writes.
The latest figures come against a backdrop of supposed Qatari government reform. Qatar’s government introduced legislation in May that would put additional limits on what is known as the kafala system. A kind of labor sponsorship program, the kafala system is used widely throughout the Middle East. It gives employers the power to issue exit visas, which if abused, can strand migrant workers in Qatar against their will. The country has done little to address safety concerns, however, causing organizations such as Amnesty International to continue to decry what they see as inhumane conditions. Human Rights Watch, another humanitarian organization, has also heavily critiqued the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation over its migrant worker conditions.
“We know that people who work long hours in high temperatures are highly vulnerable to fatal heat strokes, so obviously these figures continue to cause alarm,” Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas McGeehan told the Guardian. “It’s Qatar’s responsibility to determine if deaths are related to living and working conditions, but Qatar flatly rejected a … recommendation to launch an immediate investigation into these deaths last year.”
For it’s part, FIFA has eschewed any responsibility for workers’ safety building the facilities where the world soccer governing body’s quadrennial tournament will be held.
“[The companies] are responsible for their workers and not FIFA,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said earlier this month on a visit to Sri Lanka. He also seemed to excuse Qatar from responsibility, as well, noting the companies are generally run by people in Germany, France or another European nation.