New report says thousands of migrant worker deaths in Qatar remain unexplained
The FA have been urged to put pressure on FIFA to push for new reforms ahead of the Qatar World Cup
A new report has highlighted how authorities in Qatar have failed to thoroughly investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the country over the past decade.
In the Prime of their Lives, a new 56-page report from Amnesty, shows how death certificates are routinely issued for migrant workers without adequate investigations into their cause of death being carried out. Instead, deaths are often explained simply by "natural causes" or attributed to loosely-defined cardiac failures. These certificates rule out the chances of the workers' bereaved families receiving compensation and have been described as "meaningless" by one leading pathologist.
Since being awarded the 2022 World Cup over a decade ago, Qatari authorities have introduced reforms designed to protect workers after being subjected to intense international pressure. There are still claims that the changes don't go far enough, with an article by the Guardian claiming earlier this year that thousands of workers had died in the country since they were named as hosts of the tournament.
The report stresses how strenuous working hours, sometimes in searing summer temperatures, continue to pose significant risks to the workers.
Amnesty consulted medical experts and assessed government data on thousands of deaths when compiling their report. They also analysed 18 death certificates and conducted interviews with the families of migrant workers who have died in the country between the ages of 30 and 40.
- How Tromso led calls for a Norway boycott of the Qatar World Cup
- Norway decides against Qatar World Cup boycott
- Qatar World Cup protests may be too late... but they're far from pointless
15 of the certificates provided no information of underlying causes of death, but used terms such as "acute heart failure natural causes", "heart failure unspecified" and "acute respiratory failure due to natural causes". Amnesty add that similar phrases were used for more than half of the 35 deaths recorded as "non-work related" on World Cup facilities since 2015. This, they claim, suggests meaningful investigations were unlikely to have been carried out.
"These are phrases that should not be included on a death certificate without a further qualification explaining the underlying cause," Dr David Bailey, a leading pathologist and member of the WHO Working Group on death certification, told Amnesty.
"Essentially, everyone dies of respiratory or cardiac failure in the end and the phrases are meaningless without an explanation of the reason why."
Amnesty continues to push for more reforms in Qatar, calling on the country's authorities to introduce mandatory rest breaks for workers to help protect them from the extreme heat they are expected to work in. They are also demanding the certification and compensation of migrant workers' deaths.
The organisation is also urging the Football Association and other national governing bodies of the sport to press FIFA to use its influence with Qatar to push reforms through before next year's World Cup.
"Migrant worker deaths are casting a long shadow over the 2022 World Cup," said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO.
"The FA, as part of the UEFA Working Group on Workers’ Rights in Qatar, should be at the forefront of concerted efforts within FIFA to press Qatar to urgently strengthen migrant worker protections, and to investigate deaths and compensate families.
"England players, staff and supporters can use their influence by keeping the issue of migrant worker rights in Qatar in the public eye. There is still an enormous amount to play for."
Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, added:
"When relatively young and healthy men die suddenly after working long hours in extreme heat, it raises serious questions about the safety of working conditions in Qatar.
"In failing to investigate the underlying causes of migrant workers’ deaths, the Qatari authorities are ignoring warning signs which could, if addressed, save lives.
"The failure to investigate, remedy and prevent the deaths of migrant workers is a breach of Qatar's obligation to uphold and protect the right to life.
"Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world - not only can it afford to do far better, it has an obligation to do so.
"Qatar must establish a specialist team to properly investigate the death of every worker and ensure that compensation is paid in any case where working conditions such as exposure to extreme heat cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor.
"If workers have been exposed to dangerous conditions such as extreme heat and no other cause of death can be established, Qatar must provide families with adequate compensation and take immediate action to strengthen protections for other workers."