• Amnesty International says criticism of the treatment of workers in Qatar is unfair
  • Reports have said Nepalese workers are dying at a rate of one every two days
  • Qatar has introduced labour reforms to improve living standards

The conditions migrant workers face on Qatari buildings sites are being unfairly criticised and there are unanswered questions about why so many Nepalese employed in Qatar are dying, Amnesty International Gulf migrant worker researcher Mustafa Qadri has told MEED.

“Qatar is getting a bad rap,” he said.

Qadri attended the annual MEED Qatar Projects conference in Doha on 10 and 11 March. He was accompanied by Amnesty International Nepal section director Rameshwar Nepal.

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Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulrahman bin Nasser al-Thani

The UK daily The Guardian reported in December that Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014.

The figure excludes deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers.

The Guardian had reported in 2013 about bad labour practices on Qatar building sites amid the mounting controversy about Fifa’s decision to appoint Qatar to organise the 2022 World Cup Finals. In February, a Fifa report recommended that the finals should be held in the autumn of 2022 rather than in June and July as is the Fifa convention.

Qatar has promised to reform the treatment of migrant workers on Qatari building sites. The government commissioned an investigation by the international law firm DLA Piper and promised to implement recommendations listed in a report published in May 2014.

Human rights organisations, however, still accuse Qatar of dragging its feet on the reforms, saying not enough is being done to investigate the effect of working long hours in temperatures that regularly top 50C. This is a charge the Qatar government rejects and Qadri said the situation is Qatar is mixed and there are examples of good practices as well as bad ones.

Asked about the mortality rate among Nepalese workers in Qatar, Nepal said that there is no clear evidence that it was due to overwork, heat or neglect. “We don’t have the facts,” Nepal said.

Some observers say the exceptionally high death rates among Nepalese workers may be due to the recruitment process in Nepal. They say it may be due to the fact that the health of workers is already defective when they arrive and that the mortality rate could be due to that factor rather than working conditions.

The conference was told that Qatar accepts that conditions for workers employed on World Cup and other projects should improve.

In October 2013, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science & Community Development signed the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter. The Foundation has also launched the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare which will help apply minimum requirements with respect to the recruitment, living and working conditions, as well as the general treatment of workers engaged in construction and other projects. The mandatory standards are incorporated into agreements between Qatar Foundation and all its contractors.

The conference was told that Daruna, a Qatari company building accommodation for construction and other workers, had signed a memorandum of understanding for the first in what is planned to be series of model communities for migrant workers.

The number of migrant workers living in Qatar is now estimated to be up to 1 million. About 140,000 new migrant labour licences have been issued since the start of the year and some forecast the number of migrant workers in Qatar will rise to more than 2 million by the end of the decade.

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