Human rights organizations had one demand from FIFA ahead of the Qatar World Cup: Establish a compensation fund for the migrant workers who died during the construction work for the World Cup in Qatar. Their call was not heeded.
The Guardian reported in February 2021 that more than 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar since the country was named as the 2022 host of the FIFA World Cup 12 years ago.
The victims were reportedly from a number of countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
According to a 2021 Amnesty International report, the figure in the same period is even higher: 15,021.
Attributing the number to official data from Qatar’s Planning and Statistics Authority (PSA), Amnesty pointed out that information on the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar had previously been scarce.
Despite the fact that there is no evidence or official confirmation that all of these deaths occurred in connection with the World Cup in Qatar — including working at stadium construction sites for the global sports event — it is assumed that a large portion of them did.
If you ask FIFA or the Qatari World Cup organizing committee, the death toll that is directly related to the World Cup preparations was “three:” two men from Nepal and another from the United Kingdom, who died at the Al Janoub Stadium and the Khalifa International Stadium, respectively. At least, that was the official statement until a few days ago.
Eight days into the tournament, speaking to CNN‘s Piers Morgan on November 28, Qatar’s World Cup Chief Hassan Al-Thawadi said that between 400 and 500 migrant workers died as a result of work linked to the World Cup 2022, adding that he does not know the exact number.
New metro system, futuristic city to host World Cup fans
Given the poor record of Qatar on working conditions for construction workers, here is some further information to help you take a more accurate guess on the actual number.
Located in the city of Al Wakrah, the Al Janoub Stadium boasts a capacity of over 40,000. It was built for the World Cup and took five years to be finalized (from 2014 to 2019).
The Khalifa International Stadium, which opened in 1976 in the city of Al Rayyan, also has a massive capacity — 45,857. It went through a major renovation ahead of this year’s World Cup.
Including these two stadiums, Qatar prepared a total of eight venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, seven of them built from scratch.
Of course, stadium constructions were not the only projects conducted by Qatar over the past decade for the major soccer tournament.
Let’s not forget the training facilities, brand-new hotels, freeways, a high-end driverless metro train system running across the Qatari capital of Doha and its suburbs, the expansion of Hamad International Airport in Doha, and a futuristic new city particularly built to host World Cup fans in Lusail.
Why can’t families of deceased workers get compensation?
Amnesty accuses Qatar of failing to provide the safety of workers and addressing potential risks to their health such as the country’s extremely hot climate and abusive working conditions, which could have prevented hundreds of deaths.
The country has also not investigated the underlying cause in most of the migrant worker deaths, although they happened suddenly and unexpectedly, Amnesty says, noting that the victims had all passed mandatory medical tests prior to their arrival in Qatar.
More importantly, death certificates mainly indicate “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest” as the causes of these deaths, leaving bereaved families abroad with many questions in mind and depriving them of their right to receive compensation.
In September, Avaaz released a petition, calling on FIFA President Gianni Infantino to set aside $440 million — the amount of the total prize that will be awarded to the winning teams at this year’s World Cup — to create a compensation fund for the families of the victims.
“Imagine being so desperate for work that you left your family behind to live in a squalid camp thousands of miles away and toil in the desert heat for as little as $1 an hour. Then you died, alone, and your family got nothing. This was the terrible fate of 6,500 modern-day slaves reported to have died preparing Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. That’s 39 deaths for every goal expected at this year’s World Cup!” Avaaz said in its statement.
The petition has collected more than 700,000 signatures from people around the world. Still no word from FIFA.