High death toll reported for Nepalese workers in Qatar

26 January 2014

Nepalese group urges sponsors to reconsider their relationship with Fifa

At least 185 Nepalese labourers were killed working on construction projects in Qatar in 2013, The UK’s Guardian newspaper has reported, citing “official documents”.

The paper said the Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC) had cross-checked the figures from official sources in Doha against death certificates and passports. Nepalese workers comprise about one-sixth of Qatar’s 2 million population of migrant workers.

The total number of verified deaths among workers from Nepal is now at least 382 in two years alone, according to the paper, which said the figure could go even higher as PNCC is still receiving new cases on a regular basis.

The PNCC issued a statement urging Fifa’s sponsors to reconsider their relationship with world football’s governing body, which awarded the World Cup to Qatar in December 2010.

“Fifa and the government of Qatar promised the world that they would take action to ensure the safety of workers building the stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. This horrendous roll call of the dead gives the lie to those reassurances,” said the PNCC. 

In December, the Qatari government said it will publish an official report “in the next few weeks” on migrant worker abuses at sites where it is building stadiums and infrastructure for football’s 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Qatar hired international law firm DLA Piper to conduct an independent investigation into claims that serious human rights abuses were taking place on construction sites as the country gears up to host the football tournament.

The review was instigated in response to allegations in The Guardian in September that Nepalese labourers were dying at the rate of one a day as they worked in searing heat on Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure schemes.

In early October, Ali Ahmed al-Kholeifi, international affairs director at Qatar’s Labour Ministry, announced DLA Piper had been asked “to undertake an independent review of the allegations and provide a report on their veracity to the ministry”.

However, the selection of DLA Piper as investigator has been questioned in the international community, as the law firm also acts as a lobbyist for Al-Jazeera, the Qatari-owned broadcaster.

The issue of workers’ rights abuses in Qatar gained further urgency in November, following a report by human rights organisation Amnesty International claiming migrant workers are often subject to non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and squalid accommodation.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee responded to the report by saying companies working on construction projects in preparation for the World Cup will be “transparently and robustly” monitored through a three-tier compliance and auditing structure.

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