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Qatar: ongoing debate over migrant worker deaths exposes need for 'truth, justice and compensation'

© Getty/Amnesty International

Abuses against migrant workers remain rife in Qatar

Until all abuses suffered by migrant workers in Qatar are remedied, the legacy of this World Cup will be severely tarnished by their mistreatment’ - Steve Cockburn

In response to comments made by the Secretary General of the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, about migrant worker deaths during an interview with Piers Morgan, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said: 

“The continued debate around the number of workers who have died in the preparation of the World Cup exposes the stark reality that so many bereaved families are still waiting for truth and justice.     

“Over the last decade, thousands of workers have returned home in coffins, with no explanation given to their loved ones. Qatar’s extreme heat and gruelling working conditions are likely to have contributed to hundreds of these deaths, but without full investigations the true scale of lives lost can never be known. Meanwhile, families are suffering the added anguish of severe financial insecurity that comes from losing the main wage earner. 

“There is nothing natural about this scale of loss and there can be no excuse for denying families truth, justice and compensation any longer. Until all abuses suffered by migrant workers in Qatar are remedied, the legacy of this World Cup will be severely tarnished by their mistreatment.” 

Comments made by Hassan Al Thawadi 

During an interview on Piers Morgan’s ‘Uncensored’ programme, Hassan Al Thawadi said that an estimated 400-500 migrant workers had died as a result of work they were carrying out for the World Cup.

The Supreme Committee subsequently issued a clarification stating that the figure cited by Al Thawadi referred to national statistics from 2014-2020 covering all work-related fatalities nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities. 

Reforms are unfinished business 

Since 2017, the Qatari authorities have put in place measures to protect workers from wage theft and enhance access to justice, but these do not cover all workers or address abuses in the years before the systems were established. Crucially, significant implementation and enforcement gaps remain. For example, workers who have already left Qatar cannot access labour committees or a fund established to pay them when their employers fail to do so.

Last month, Amnesty published a major report - Unfinished Business - showing that abuses against migrant workers remain rife in Qatar, with thousands of workers across all projects still facing issues such as delayed or unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs and limited access to justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers remain uninvestigated.

Remediation programme

In May, Amnesty and a coalition of organisations launched a campaign calling on Qatar and FIFA to establish a comprehensive remediation programme for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who had faced abuses such as illegal recruitment fees, unpaid wages, injury and death. The proposal has gained widespread support - from more than a dozen football associations, including those of England, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the USA; from World Cup sponsors Coca Cola, Adidas, Budweiser and McDonalds; and, via a viral video last month, from the Australian national team. In September, a poll commissioned by Amnesty across 15 countries showed 84% of likely World Cup viewers favoured the proposal. 

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