Qatar World Cup boss under fire for ‘shameful’ comments about worker’s death
- December 10, 2022
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The Qatar World Cup CEO is facing backlash for his reaction to news of the death of a stadium worker earlier this week.
FIFA reported that a worker died on Wednesday, although officials did not release the person’s name or details of the incident. But according to The Athletic, the male migrant worker, who was Filipino, died trying to fix a light fixture at the Saudi Arabian team’s training base. Qatar is now investigating the incident, Agence France Presse reported.
A human rights group has accused Qatar World Cup CEO Nasser Al Khater of insensitively downplaying the worker’s death when responding to a reporter’s question about the incident.
“Death is a natural part of life, whether at work or asleep,” Al Khater told Reuters. “Of course a worker died, our condolences go to his family.”
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, blasted Al Khater and FIFA in a message published on its website Thursday.
“The responses from FIFA and the Qatari authorities illustrate long-standing disregard for the lives of migrant workers, repeated concealment of important facts and failure to take responsibility for the safety of migrant workers,” the group said.
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“The government’s shameful stance on migrant worker deaths is reflected in the authorities’ failure to investigate the thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010,” added Human Rights Watch.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Al Khater’s comments were also condemned on social media.
“Even if death is natural, saying it like that sounds arrogant and insensitive to family and other migrants and some of us who see this comment,” one Twitter user wrote. “He should apologize or withdraw his statement.”
Another Twitter user added that Al Khater gave an “absolutely shocking response that shows how much he cares for human life.”
Since the country won the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has been under investigation over the deaths of scores of migrant workers involved in building stadiums and other infrastructure. A senior Qatari official involved in the tournament recently said that between 400 and 500 people died in the preparations for the event.
By comparison, eight people died preparing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and 17 during the 2018 tournament in Russia, according to Human Rights Watch.
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Qatar has relied on an army of foreign workers, mostly from South Asia and Africa, to build stadiums, hotels, public transport and other facilities in preparation for the tournament. Thousands toiled for years in temperatures as high as 120 degrees, crammed into overcrowded, run-down housing camps near the venues they set up.
“We and others have been asking the Qatari authorities to conduct such inquiries into workers’ deaths for years, to no avail,” Ella Knight, a researcher on migrant labor rights for Amnesty International, told the BBC. “Instead, they continue to write off large numbers of deaths simply as ‘natural causes,’ despite the clear health risks associated with working in extreme temperatures,” she said
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Christopher J Brooks