Amnesty calls on Qatar to probe employee deaths

Amnesty calls on Qatar to probe worker deaths
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Soccer Football – Education City Stadium general views, Al Rayyan, Qatar – June 15, 2020. General view inside the Education City Stadium, which was recently completed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Handout via REUTERS

Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday called on 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar to do more to investigate worker deaths, alleging that a string of laborer fatalities had gone unexplained.

As next year’s tournament approaches, Qatar has repeatedly come under the spotlight over worker welfare issues, including the death rate, prompting protests from European national sides including Germany.

“Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade, despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions,” Amnesty said in a statement ahead of the launch of a new report.

“(The report) documents how Qatar routinely issues death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations, instead attributing deaths to ‘natural causes’ or vaguely defined cardiac failures.”

Amnesty said that in a well-funded healthcare system it should be possible to identify the cause of death in all but one percent of cases. In Qatar cause of death could not be determined in 70 percent of cases, according to analysis of records in the migrants’ home countries.

In February, the Gulf state fiercely denied reports in Britain’s Guardian newspaper of excessive worker fatalities, insisting the figure was unreliable but refusing to publish the actual number.

Amnesty said it analyzed 18 death certificates issued between 2017 and 2021 with 15 using vague terms including “heart failure unspecified” and “acute respiratory failure due to natural causes”.

“Essentially, everyone dies of respiratory or cardiac failure in the end and the phrases are meaningless without an explanation of the reason why,” David Bailey, a pathologist and member of the WHO’s Working Group on death certification, told Amnesty.

As well as promises that infrastructure will be ready for the tournament, Qatar has repeatedly given assurances on its human and labour rights record.

International organizations frequently criticize the gas-rich nation over the treatment of its hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, mostly from Africa and Asia.

Doha has announced several reforms to its employment regulations since it was selected to host the World Cup, although critics say implementation has been patchy.

“We do not support or agree with the position Amnesty has taken against Qatar. The positive impact of labour reforms in Qatar is clear for all to see,” a government spokesman said in a statement.

“Major reforms include a new national minimum wage, the removal of exit permits, the removal of barriers to change jobs, stricter oversight of recruitment, better accommodation, and improved health and safety standards.”

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