Qatar Examines Migrant Workers’ Deaths, But There Are Still Big Questions

In a recent interview with talk show host Piers Morgan, Hassan Al-Thawadi, general secretary of the High Committee for Delivery and Heritage, casually uttered that organizers estimated that 400-500 workers died as a result of the work done on them. Projects linked to the World Cup.

It was a surprising claim, as Qatar’s official estimates of the number of World Cup victims have come to several hundred for the first time. It was also surprising that Al-Thawadi casually slipped the trick away. It was not part of an official report or investigation. He suggested that it was not very important.

Al-Thawadi filled it with all the right phrases. “One death is too much, it’s that simple,” he said. But frankly, one death wasn’t much. Or for that matter, 500 deaths wasn’t too much for this World Cup, a soft strength and posture exercise. Al-Thawadi claimed that working conditions have improved. It’s been twelve years since Qatar shocked the world and won the right to host a World Cup in stadiums that didn’t exist yet. They had more than ten years to bring working conditions to humane levels. Still, we’re back with regular stories of abuse and exploitation uncovered by reporters every day of the World Cup.

At the root of the plight, suffering and death of migrant workers is the infamous skull system prevalent in all Gulf countries. In Arabic, Kafala literally means ‘guardianship’. According to Human Rights Watch, it links a foreign worker to a sponsor who “grants uncontrolled powers over migrant workers, allowing them to evade accountability for labor and HR abuses, leaving workers in debt and in constant fear of retaliation.” Qatar claims that the kabala has been abolished, but reality on the ground shows that the removal is nothing more than paper reforms.

Perhaps the most serious issue that Al-Thawadi’s statement brings to the surface is the number itself. For most of the World Cup, the number of worker casualties reported by Qatar was 37. Now it’s up to 500 if Al-Thawadi is to be believed. Or in his words, “Between 400 and 500. I don’t know the exact number, it’s a matter of debate.”

“From this excerpt, it appears that seniors in Qatar are still *deciding* how many deaths to choose as opposed to actual deaths,” British journalist Nick Harris wrote on Twitter.

Given Qatar’s hawk-like dominance over what migrants can and cannot do in the Gulf country, it is inconceivable that the High Committee was unaware of the deaths of workers. Maybe Al-Thawadi’s new revelation is a compromise trick?

Numerous independent studies and studies show that more than 6,000 people died while working on Qatar’s infrastructure ahead of the World Cup. Qatar’s magic tricks and illusions to keep that number as low as possible are far more impressive than anything they’ve displayed during the World Cup.

A perfectly healthy worker who dies during the construction of the stadium is written as natural death as nothing fell on him or fell from anywhere. There is no mention of inhumane working conditions, unbearable heat or long working hours. All this has played a role in thousands of ‘natural’ worker deaths.

If there’s anything worse than killing these people, it’s destroying their existence. Qatar is doing exactly that by being dishonest about World Cup-related worker deaths.

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