World Cup 2022 killed
There are many dead in the construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. What about FIFA working conditions and policies?
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More than 6,500 dead in stadium construction in the past 10 years
More than 6,500 workers have already died during the construction of the football stadiums in Qatar. This high death toll is the result of modern slave labor in the host country for the 2022 World Cup.
According to the English newspaper The Guardian, the victims come from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The deaths have occurred in the past 10 years while the stadiums are being built, which should be ready before 2022.
The actual number of deaths is probably even higher, as not all data from all countries has been examined. It is also not known where exactly the people died, nor the cause of death.
Nevertheless, it is suspected that the extreme heat is the main culprit. 69% of the deaths from India, Bangladesh and Nepal have been diagnosed with natural deaths, and the percentage is as high as 80% for those from India. The majority of the deceased migrant workers do not undergo an extensive autopsy and the exact cause of death is unknown.
At the beginning of 2021, the number of employees from abroad is estimated at 1.4 million. In recent years, several million people have been in the country to work on the stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar.
Qatar has been criticized for its treatment of guest workers since the assignment. In recent years, millions of workers have worked in the oil state, and 6,500 deaths are not considered abnormal. In the meantime, the host country has taken the necessary measures to improve working conditions, but according to human rights organizations these are insufficiently applied in practice.
Article in The Guardian about working conditions and the number of deaths in Qatar
More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian can reveal.
The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations have died each week since the night in December 2010 when the streets of Doha were filled with ecstatic crowds celebrating Qatar's victory.
Data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in the period 2011–2020. Separately, data from Pakistan's embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers, between 2010 and 2020.
The total death toll is significantly higher, as these figures do not include deaths from a number of countries which send large numbers of workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and Kenya. Deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.
In the past 10 years, Qatar has embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the football tournament in 2022. In addition to seven new stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed or are under way, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels and a new city, which will host the World Cup final.
While death records are not categorised by occupation or place of work, it is likely many workers who have died were employed on these World Cup infrastructure projects, says Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf. "A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup," he said.
There have been 37 deaths among workers directly linked to construction of World Cup stadiums, of which 34 are classified as "non-work related" by the event's organising committee. Experts have questioned the use of the term because in some cases it has been used to describe deaths which have occurred on the job, including a number of workers who have collapsed and died on stadium construction sites.
The findings expose Qatar's failure to protect its 2 million-strong migrant workforce, or even investigate the causes of the apparently high rate of death among the largely young workers.
Behind the statistics lie countless stories of devastated families who have been left without their main breadwinner, struggling to gain compensation and confused about the circumstances of their loved one's death.
Ghal Singh Rai from Nepal paid nearly £1,000 in recruitment fees for his job as a cleaner in a camp for workers building the Education City World Cup stadium. Within a week of arriving, he killed himself.
Another worker, Mohammad Shahid Miah, from Bangladesh, was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came into contact with exposed electricity cables.
In India, the family of Madhu Bollapally have never understood how the healthy 43-year old died of "natural causes" while working in Qatar. His body was found lying on his dorm room floor.
Qatar's grim death toll is revealed in long spreadsheets of official data listing the causes of death: multiple blunt injuries due to a fall from height; asphyxia due to hanging; undetermined cause of death due to decomposition.
But among the causes, the most common by far is so-called "natural deaths", often attributed to acute heart or respiratory failure.
Based on the data obtained by the Guardian, 69% of deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers are categorised as natural. Among Indians alone, the figure is 80%.
The Guardian has previously reported that such classifications, which are usually made without an autopsy, often fail to provide a legitimate medical explanation for the underlying cause of these deaths.
In 2019 it found that Qatar's intense summer heat is likely to be a significant factor in many worker deaths. The Guardian's findings were supported by research commissioned by the UN's International Labour Organization which revealed that for at least four months of the year workers faced significant heat stress when working outside.
A report from Qatar government's own lawyers in 2014 recommended that it commission a study into the deaths of migrant workers from cardiac arrest, and amend the law to "allow for autopsies … in all cases of unexpected or sudden death". The government has done neither.
Qatar continues to "drag its feet on this critical and urgent issue in apparent disregard for workers' lives", said Hiba Zayadin, Gulf researcher for Human Rights Watch. "We have called on Qatar to amend its law on autopsies to require forensic investigations into all sudden or unexplained deaths, and pass legislation to require that all death certificates include reference to a medically meaningful cause of death," she said.
The Qatar government says that the number of deaths – which it does not dispute – is proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce and that the figures include white-collar workers who have died naturally after living in Qatar for many years. It also says that only 20 per cent of expatriates from the countries in question are employed in construction, and that work-related deaths in this sector accounted for fewer than 10 percent of fatalities within this group.
"The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country," the Qatari government said in a statement by a spokesperson.
The official added that all citizens and foreign nationals have access to free first-class healthcare, and that there has been a steady decline in the mortality rate among "guest workers" over the past decade due to health and safety reforms to the labour system.
Other significant causes of deaths among Indians, Nepalis and Bangladeshis are road accidents (12%), workplace accidents (7%) and suicide (7%).
Covid-related deaths, which have remained extremely low in Qatar, have not significantly affected the figures, with just over 250 fatalities among all nationalities.
The Guardian's research has also highlighted the lack of transparency, rigour and detail in recording deaths in Qatar. Embassies in Doha and governments in labour-sending countries are reluctant to share the data, possibly for political reasons. Where statistics have been provided, there are inconsistencies between the figures held by different government agencies, and there is no standard format for recording the causes of death. One south-Asian embassy said they could not share data on the causes of death because they were only recorded by hand in a notebook.
"There is a real lack of clarity and transparency surrounding these deaths," said May Romanos, Gulf researcher for Amnesty International. "There is a need for Qatar to strengthen its occupational health and safety standards."
The committee organising the World Cup in Qatar, when asked about the deaths on stadium projects, said: "We deeply regret all of these tragedies and investigated each incident to ensure lessons were learned. We have always maintained transparency around this issue and dispute inaccurate claims around the number of workers who have died on our projects."
In a statement, a spokesperson for Fifa, football's world governing body, said it is fully committed to protecting the rights of workers on Fifa projects. "With the very stringent health and safety measures on site … the frequency of accidents on Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world," they said, without providing evidence.
Health and safety are poor
In April 2017, independent researchers will publish the first report on the working conditions of workers in Qatar. The Impact Ltd, with human rights experts, now publishes annually on the construction work of the football stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. Nothing is said about possible deaths in the first report.
Looking at the impact of Workers' Welfare Standards on the 15,000 workers in Qatar, the report makes a distinction between different areas where construction companies fall short. High risks have been found in the area of working conditions, including health and safety, contracts and administration and living conditions. Workers live in small houses and they often lack healthy food and medical care.
In addition, human rights experts have various smaller recommendations. This concerns in particular risks in the area of paying arrears of wages for workers, paying bribes between contractors, and adequate personnel administration which, in addition to the obligations, also defines the rights of employees.
HEY. Hassan Al Thawadi, president of the organization of the 2022 World Cup, welcomes the report, commissioned by FIFA and the organization. According to him, the research indicates that Qatar is constantly improving the working conditions of workers at the stadiums of the first football World Cup in the Middle East.
"We have always believed that the 2022 World Cup will be a catalyst for positive initiatives in Qatar, including important and lasting improvements in working conditions," said Al Thawadi. "Despite the fact that the findings still show a number of risk areas and areas for improvement, they also show the dedication of the organization to constantly improve them."
"We do everything that is needed to ensure that the issues are sufficiently addressed. We respect Impactt's research and independence during their research and observations," he added.
The report says that the host country for the World Football Cup has made significant progress since the Workers' Welfare Standards were introduced. The bodies involved in the construction of the football temples are increasingly showing their interest in improvements.
Dead again at the construction of the stadium in Doha
In Qatar, another death occurred during the construction of the football stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. In Doha, the capital of the host country, a 40-year-old British died in January 2017. He is the umpteenth dead during construction work at the World Cup stadiums in Qatar.
The man fell from a great height, but his safety system did not work. His identity is not further disclosed, but the organization starts an investigation. The man from Great Britain worked for a German company involved in the construction of the 2022 World Cup stadiums. He died yesterday at the Khalifa International Stadium that is being renovated for the World Football Cup.
Hassan Al Thawadi, general secretary of the organization in Qatar, recently said that working conditions for workers have improved considerably. "We are constantly working on improvements. It may be fast, but there is progress." The Dutch trade union FNV has raised the bad circumstances and even brought FIFA to court for slavery and exploitation. Last week the judge agreed with FIFA.
Every year, according to human rights organization Amnesty International, many people are killed in Qatar during the construction of the stadiums. According to the organization of the 2022 World Cup, only two people have now died. According to Al Thawadi, the criticism of Qatar is very exaggerated. The organization is under strict supervision of independent international organizations.
Workers in Qatar are still being exploited according to Amnesty International
Labor migrants working in Qatar on stadiums for the 2022 World Cup are still being exploited. Human rights organization Amnesty International published a report on the abuses on Thursday 31 March 2016.
The human rights organization interviewed 231 workers last year who complain about filthy and cramped accommodations, deception about the nature and reward of work and intimidation. Forced labor was found at one company.
World football association FIFA has been promising for five years to tackle violations of workers' human rights, but so far there has been virtually no improvement, Amnesty notes.
"The Qatari government remains apathetic and FIFA is completely inadequate when it comes to the rights of the workers. Working conditions and scanty payment are in terrible contrast with the generous salaries of footballers who will play in Qatar later," said Eduard, director. Nazarski from Amnesty Netherlands Thursday.
Workers mainly come from Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Amnesty calls on major sponsors such as Adidas, Coca Cola and McDonald's to increase pressure on FIFA to prevent exploitation.
FIFA says in a response to the report that the approach to the problem should be considered as a "process". The World Football Association is confident that there is a good basis for monitoring working conditions in Qatar.
"Of course many challenges remain, but we are on the right track and determined to improve, to contribute even more to the protection of workers' rights in the World Cup 2022 stadium projects."
Government wants to change the conditions for construction workers of World Cup 2022 stadiums in Qatar
The unsalted criticism is known: workers who are building the gigantic World Cup stadiums in Qatar are living in dire circumstances. But, says NOS sports reporter Gio Lippens, the local government wants to change that. And so work is now being done on so-called working-class cities, where World Cup builders can live under better conditions.
Lippens was the Dutch president of the sports journalists' association in Qatar in February 2016 for a conference and was given a tour of one of the cities. There must be sports facilities, a cinema and even a complete shopping center. But it is not really luxurious either: workers have to share their room of 24 square meters with three other employees. And there is a fence around the city. "People just have different ideas here," Lippens explains. And yes, according to him, working in a burning sun with more than 40 degrees is still an issue. "You know that you will be overwhelmed," he says about the tour. "They are sending you in a direction they want to show you. But it was less polished than I thought."
In total, four cities will be built, in which 100,000 people can each live. But that is not nearly enough for the 1.8 million workers. There was no answer to the question of where the remaining 1.4 million employees had to sleep. Currently, many of the workers, mostly from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, sleep six in seven in small, unhygienic rooms.
The Workers Welfare Standards improve working conditions in Qatar
FIFA is fully aware of the situation regarding workers' rights in Qatar. That is why the World Football Association wants to work with stakeholders to improve these conditions in the host country for the 2022 World Cup. People are aware that all eyes on the world are focused on football in Qatar.
Since 2011, FIFA experts have been in contact with the highest authorities in Qatar, including Amnesty International, discussing how sustainable improvement in working conditions is achieved. Several people have already died in the construction of the football stadiums for the World Cup.
FIFA therefore established new rules at the end of 2015 in the Worker's Welfare Standards. These are international standards regarding working conditions, housing and wages. This standard also becomes binding on all companies involved in the construction of stadiums and accommodations in Qatar. FIFA also wants other construction sites in the country to abide by the rules.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy is an organization responsible for delivering the stadiums and other buildings and infrastructure for the World Cup 2022. In March 2013, the first rules of the Worker's Welfare Standards were established. In 2014 this standard was adjusted again. The Workers' Welfare Standards are a set of contractually binding rules that ensure that contractors and subcontractors work in line with international rules regarding working conditions.
In addition to the standard, FIFA regularly examines on its own initiative working conditions in and around the football stadiums in Qatar. On November 4, 2015, 3,694 employees were involved in the construction, who all worked 10.4 million hours.
Better working conditions for workers in Qatar are being introduced
Fair working conditions for workers of the 2022 World Cup must be introduced quickly. This is what FIFA Chairman Blatter, Chairman Michael Sommer of the Confederation of German Trade Unions and the International Trade Union Confederation decided on a meeting in Zurich on 20 November 2013. The working conditions for workers in Qatar are substandard and even people regularly die in the construction of the stadiums.
Economic and political leaders must contribute to improving the unacceptable situation in Qatar. Blatter is therefore pleased with the initiative of the German football association DFB and the employees' organizations, because improvements can be enforced together. The FIFA president is convinced that Qatar takes the situation seriously and implemented improvements in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup.
The allocation of the World Football Cup to Qatar and the large publicity associated with the football tournament should make a positive contribution to the image of football worldwide. Poor working conditions for stadium and hotel workers are not part of that, according to DFB chairman Wolfgang Niersbach. Since human lives are at stake, the DFB has brought international organizations together quickly.
Qatar must apply the international standards for employees for the 2022 World Cup, so that the rights and duties of workers are raised to a higher level. Discrimination is prohibited and workers' organizations for the 1.3 million workers are allowed in the host country.
Blatter does not consider FIFA responsible for the circumstances of workers
Sepp Blatter believes FIFA is not responsible for the working conditions of immigrants working on stadiums, infrastructure and other facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. That's what the Swiss presidency of the World Football Association said on Tuesday during a visit to Sri Lanka, exactly four years after FIFA assigned the global final battle to the Arab emirate.
According to Blatter, immigrants in Qatar often work for construction companies from countries such as Germany, France and other European countries. "They are responsible for their employees, not FIFA." Moreover, 78-year-old Blatter, who is heavily under fire with his union, nuances the reports of the miserable conditions under which workers from South Asia in particular have to work. "They are better thanks to the World Cup."
Human rights organizations had previously strongly criticized Qatar for exploiting and deploying migrants as slaves. At least 964 workers would have died in 2012 and 2013 alone. The number of people injured in the workplace would be many times higher. The immigrants, often without a passport and insurance in the Gulf state, work for a hungry wage in extreme heat. Organizations therefore speak of 'inhuman circumstances'.
Blatter positive about the improvements regarding working conditions
Seph Blatter spoke on behalf of FIFA on November 9, 2013 with the highest political authorities to fulfill his three point mission. Blatter's third point concerns the problems in Qatar with working conditions. The Supreme Committee gave a presentation to the FIFA chairman, in which it was stated that the host country has been busy in recent months improving the working conditions of workers in and around the stadiums and accommodations. In addition, various legislative changes were made. An apartment is currently being built in which 60,000 workers can spend the night.
Qatar has already been in contact with the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) and with the International Labor Organization (ILO). These international organizations stand up for the rights of workers and demand improvement of the host country. The Football World Cup lasts 9 years, but according to Blatter, Qatar is on the right track towards the 2022 World Cup.
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There are many deaths in the construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. What about FIFA working conditions and policies?