Anti-Qatar Campaign Throws A Spanner in The Works Prior to FIFA World Cup 2022
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – With more than three years remaining to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, anti-Qatar campaign is throwing a spanner in the works.
The state of Qatar established a new government entity; Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, to deal with all aspects of the staging of the “FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022” in 2011. This new organization has faced many challenges since its inception, one of the most important of which has been the human rights of migrant workers. Continued claims of loss of lives of 1200 to 1400 of those working on World Cup stadia have been the most serious accusations levied against them.
Due to the high number of migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka who work on 2022-related projects in Qatar, there have been constant criticism in relation to the treatment those workers have received. Sharan Burrow, the head of the International Trade Union Confederation first claimed that 1,400 migrant workers had died while building FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 stadia during an interview with “The Saturday” publication in Australia on 6th February 2016.
The majority of construction firms working on 2022 infrastructure and stadiums are international companies. It has been claimed these contractors have mistreated their workers, held their passports, provided them with poorly conditioned accommodation, unhygienic environments and even inadequate meals. General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, was quoted in an interview with the Australian weekly publication; “The Saturday”, as saying that 1,400 workers had died building Qatar’s World Cup stadia up to the time of that interview of hers on 6th February 2016.
Khalifa International Stadium was the first stadium that the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts broke ground in December 2013. Taking into account the number of workers working on Qatar’s World Cup stadiums at the time (February 2016) and numbers of days since construction began in December 2013, excluding the non-working days of Fridays, there should have been an average of two daily deaths amongst those construction workers, if Burrows claim of 6th February 2016 had been accurate. Would any international organization confirm this claim? Of course, none has so far. Had there been such daily loss of lives, Qatar would have not been able to escape punishment by those eagle eyes of international organizations monitoring them constantly.
Amongst the backdrop of all these allegations, General Secretary Hassan Al-Thawadi, leading Qatar’s 2022 project has been at pains to share his country’s particular programs for migrant workers helping them build the required infrastructure to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Amongst steps to protect the rights of migrant workers are providing high standard accommodation, strict health and safety measures, medical care and prohibition of workers passports being held to mention a few.
Workers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka would often go through employment agencies in their respective countries and pay hefty arrangement fees to secure jobs abroad, mostly Middle Eastern countries. These low-skilled workers take out personal loans to pay these “arrangement fees” in their own country, a financial burden that holds them back for months before they are able to send money home.
Qatar has just announced that the 160 contractors working on 2022 infrastructure projects will reimburse more than 25-million-U.S.-dollars to thousands of workers for their recruitment fees they had paid to companies in their own home countries.
All these steps has led to Qatar’s most vocal critic, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of The International Trade Union Confederation, to praise Qatar for their pioneering efforts. She has gone on record stating that in her opinion what Qatar has done in recent years should be followed by other Middle Eastern states, contradicting her own earliest claims and statements.
In our visits to Lusail and Al Rayyan World Cup stadia, we witnessed the highest standards of Health and Safety at any work place anywhere in the world. In addition, nearby workers accommodation meet all hygienic and comfort requirements. They receive four meals a deal while receiving free medical treatments both within their living quarters and local hospitals if and when required.
The most recent reports concerning the death of 1,400 Nepali construction workers triggered us to investigate this claim closely. Our close inspection of those claims made by the international media, shed light on the huge gap between reality and recent claims, presumably confirmed by the government of Nepal.
The German WDR television network recently aired a report claiming that 1,400 Nepali workers had perished while working on Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup stadia. This claimed figure of 1,400 dead migrant workers is exactly identical to Sharan Burrow’s false claim of February 2016.
According to WDR’s report, officials of the Nepal government confirmed this figure. However, as previously mentioned above, this figure of 1,400 dead workers dates back to Sharan Burrow’s claim of February 2016, which presumably included all nationalities and not just those of Nepal.
More than three years has passed since that initial 1,400-dead workers’ claim. Had that claim been accurate, and with more workers having been claimed to have died on more stadia construction sites, the number of workers from all nationals should have been considerably higher than the repeated 1,400 figure. It appears as though the government of Nepal has taken ownership of those presumed dead by Sharan Burrow (up to 6thFebruary 2016), a claim she has distanced herself from and not repeated since.
Even further is the contradictory statements made by those Nepali government officials, including Ministry of Labor spokesperson; Narayan Ragmi, quoted in Russia’s Sports Express coverage of these most recent claims. When pressed for further clarification on the exact number of death toll of their nationals, Ragmi has been quoted as saying that they did not have any official information, but he is aware that some Nepali nationals have lost their lives while working on construction sites related to Qatar’s 2022 projects. And yet he could not confirm the actual number is 1,400. In the same (Russian) Sports Express report, it is suggested – and contradicted - that Nepal government officials categorically confirmed the death of 1,400 of their nationals in Qatar on construction sites.
A simple search on the subject reveals multiple results, the majority of which carried by media outlets funded by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, all categorically confirming the death of 1,400 Nepali workers. In contrast official Nepali government spokespersons are not willing to confirm that figure, nor are they willing to offer a figure of their own. One wonders whether to believe these claims that seem to be spreading by anti-Qatar regional rivals to stop them from hosting Middle East’s first FIFA World Cup?
One might be able to accept earlier claims of passports being held, inadequate living conditions, lack of proper nutrition or even work place health and safety issues. If any of these inadequacies existed ahead of our visits to FIFA World Cup construction sites, they have all been dealt with by Qatari authorities, who oversee the work of international contractors working on their 2022 related projects.
However, is it really prudent to accept the death of 1,400 human beings without any proof? A number that seems to have been taken out of thin air more than three years ago and been used repeatedly by those with an agenda, most recently by the German broadcaster WDR.
In fact, Qatar has long recruited the services of “Building and Woodworkers’ International” (BWI), an independent Swiss based international workers organization, approved by international Human Rights agencies, to monitor and audit all issues related to migrant workers working on FIFA World Cup projects Qatar has undertaken since December 2013.
As per the official “BWI” figures, a total of three individuals lost their lives between December 2013 and December 31st 2017 while working on 2022 related projects in Qatar due to disregarding health and safety measures that had been put in place.
As per recently released BWI report for the 2018 calendar year, a grand total of 31,000 workers were engaged in 2022 related construction projects across Qatar. BWI recorded and confirmed a total of eleven (11) fatalities in 2018. Of the eleven cases, only one person died on their work site.
BWI has also reported the cause of the other ten cases. One individual’s cause of death is recorded as “car accident” and nine other persons had died during their sleep by cardiac arrest and other natural causes.
So, our close examination of facts and figures gathered by independent international organizations confirms that four individuals have lost their lives as a result of working on FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 construction projects. This confirmed and audited figure of four fatality is a long way from the widely reported figure of 1,400 by international media and media outlets in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, Qatar’s blockading partners since 5th June 2017. The false figure of 1,400 dead workers is 350 times the actual figure.
There is more than three years remaining to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. There is every possibility that more lives may be lost until the end of Qatar’s construction projects, like all other international events of the past. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics claimed the lives of seventy (70) of its workforce. A total of twenty-one (21) workers died during Russia 2018 construction projects.
It is clear that Qatar has made every effort to minimize fatalities in their huge construction projects, far bigger and wider than any international sporting event of the past as they are rebuilding an entire country and not just a handful of sporting facilities. It is certain that we will hear more of such recent claims largely due to the current political climate and Qatar’s regional rivals’ relentless efforts to discredit the hosts of the 22nd FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Report by Alireza Moharami