Qatar's Migrant Worker Death Toll Confirmed

The Guardian's chief sports correspondent, Owen Gibson, reported the Indian embassy in Doha confirmed 502 Indian migrant workers have died since January 2012 building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

The Qatar Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs issued a statement Feb. 18 saying it has increased spot checks of workplaces and promises it will take legal action in all World Cup 2022 infrastructure occupational fatalities for which employer liability is established, after The Guardian's chief sports correspondent, Owen Gibson, reported the Indian embassy in Doha confirmed 502 Indian migrant workers have died since January 2012.

The International Trade Union Confederation also has been calling attention to the deaths and the plight of migrant workers in Qatar; the ministry's statement says the country's economic boom requires extensive employment of migrant workers, who now are the bulk of the country's population.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, put it bluntly at a European Parliament hearing this month: "Qatar is a slave state for 1.4 million migrant workers. It doesn't have to be that way. Qatar chooses to build its modern nation with the labor of migrant workers and deliberately chooses to maintain a system that treats these workers as less than human. . . . If you continue to run the World Cup in a state which enslaves workers, it shames the game. The government must end the system of kafala if the World Cup is to be played in Qatar in 2022."

"Companies, governments, and FIFA must not be complicit in treating workers as slaves in Qatar and the escalating death toll. Our conservative estimate, based on data on deaths of Nepalese and Indian workers alone, is that more than 4,000 workers will die before a ball is kicked in 2022," Burrow said.

Gibson's article include a link to the ministry's statement, which said the ministry has increased the number of trained labor inspectors by 25 percent, is hiring additional inspectors, and conducted more than 11,500 random spot checks of workplaces during the past three months as it tries to prevent workplace incidents.

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