Qatar World Cup: 1,018 Bangladeshis among 6,500 migrants have died

Migrant workers constructing a football stadium in Qatar

The mega construction projects in Qatar prior to the football World Cup 2022 caused death of migrant workers, including 1,018 Bangladeshis, reveals The Guardian in an exclusive report on Tuesday.

More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right in 2010 to host the World Cup.

The findings mean on an average some 12 migrants from these five South Asian nations have died each week since December 2010.

The Guardian report highlights death of a Bangladeshi migrant worker Mohammad Shahid Miah, 29, who was electrocuted in late September last year. Shahid died when heavy runoff submerged his room and he came into contact with an exposed electric cable.

Miah had paid a recruitment agent more than £3,500 to secure his job in Qatar in 2017, a big amount for a family from rural Bangladesh, the report says.

The report also exposes Qatar’s failure to protect its two million migrant workforce, or even investigate the motives of the apparently high rate of death.

During 2011-2020, at least 5,927 migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka died, The Guardian quoted data available in those countries.

A separate data from Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers between 2010 and 2020.

Philippines and Kenya sent the highest number of migrant workers to Qatar.

Due to data deficiency, the number of deaths of Philippian and Kenyan migrants was not included. Moreover, the deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.

Since 2010, 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 underway, 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.

However, the data obtained by The Guardian says that 69 per cent of deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers are categorised as natural.

In 2019, according to the document, it was found that Qatar’s intense summer heat was likely to be a significant factor for deaths of many workers.

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.

“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 Guardian quotes the Qatari government’s statement.