Qatar Says Up to 500 World Cup Migrant Workers Died

In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan that aired Monday, Qatar World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi said that between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died working on projects linked to the tournament, a larger figure than previously reported by Qatari officials.

Qatar Says Up to 500 World Cup Migrant Workers Died
Image credit: Marko Đurica/Reuters [via The Guardian]

Facts

  • In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan that aired Monday, Qatar World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi said that between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died working on projects linked to the tournament, a larger figure than previously reported by Qatari officials.
  • This estimate was given in response to a question about how many people died from any construction related to the event — including new hotels or bridges — since the country won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010.
  • Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy stated later that Al-Thawadi was referring to "national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities."
  • FIFA and Qatari organizers have reportedly sought to distance World Cup-related construction from more general projects — officially counting that 40 workers have died on World Cup sites, including 37 non-work-related deaths.
  • Since the beginning of the competition, the issue of migrant workers who built infrastructure for the World Cup while allegedly having few labor rights and living in squalid conditions has attracted international attention.
  • Though Qatar's 2.9M population is comprised mostly of foreigners, the Gulf nation has been accused of mistreating migrant workers despite labor reforms in 2014. Human rights groups have cited violations such as withholding salaries and charging workers to change jobs.

Sources: CNN, Axios, CBS, Guardian, Middle East Eye, and Telegraph.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The Guardian. FIFA wants the world to focus solely on soccer, but this World Cup will always be remembered for its human cost and the ongoing suffering among migrant workers. It's outrageous that the international governing body of soccer has flaunted the norms of the global community by granting hosting rights to Qatar without imposing any condition related to labor protection. FIFA must help compensate those affected by such negligence.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Al Jazeera. While Qatar has flaws, Western criticism of this year's World Cup host under the pretext of advocating for human rights is hypocritical. The West, which has long been happy to take advantage of labor laws in the Gulf emirate to extract profit, has been selectively denouncing migrant worker exploitation while deliberately failing to recognize improvements in working conditions.