The head of Qatar’s World Cup delivery committee has claimed “there has not been a single injury or death on the World Cup projects”, saying “it’s not possible to have 400 deaths when you are still digging a hole in the ground”.
It comes as Sultan Al Jamali, director of Finance and Administration at National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Qatar, told a forum in Doha this week that human rights “is one of the cornerstones of the country”.
Amnesty International has led calls for improved workers' conditions in Qatar after a report in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in September found that dozens of Nepali construction workers had died and that labourers were not given enough food and water.
In February it emerged more than 450 Indians working in Qatar have died in the past two years, according to Indian government figures obtained by news wire AFP under right of information laws. The figures follow similar data revealed to AFP by the Nepalese embassy in Doha, showing 191 deaths recorded in 2013, with many of them from "unnatural" heart failure, compared with 169 the year before.
The International Trade Union Confederation has also criticised the treatment of migrant labourers in Qatar, fearing the problem could worsen with the extra construction work needed for the tournament.
Nasser al Khater, the executive director of Communications and Marketing at the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said workers’ rights came under the kafala (sponsorship) system.
“Contrary to what the international media says there has not been a single injury or death on the World Cup projects,” he was quoted as saying.
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“It’s not possible to have 400 deaths when you are still digging a hole in the ground so I would like to make sure this matter is put to rest.”
In February Qatar was forced to establish a Workers' Welfare Standards document in response to outcry over the treatment of construction workers building World Cup facilities, sets out regulations "throughout the entire chain of contracting, from recruitment to repatriation".The document includes greater scrutiny of worker payments, comprehensive specifications for worker accommodation, as well as more labour inspectors to support the new welfare standards all overseen by a Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
Al Khater said Qatar had taken the issue of workers welfare seriously and “made sure that the highest standards in terms of workers welfare are stated in all our contracts”.
“We have always said the World Cup is a catalyst for change and we welcome the spotlight this issue has brought,” he reportedly said.
Al Khater said that only one World Cup stadium was currently under construction with five to get under way by the end of this year. However, a definite decision on cutting the number of stadiums to eight would be made next year.
Al Jamali, who was moderating a session on human rights in Doha, said Qatar was fully committed to the rights and security of all sections of the . country.“Human rights and security is a top priority for Qatar,” he was quoted as saying by The Times. “The country works closely with every sections of the society and makes sure that everyone is provided economic, social and political rights.”“The issue of human rights is one of the cornerstones of the country. We will provide all the support in ensuring the rights of each individual. We have also adopted efficient methods and solid partnerships for human security for everyone in the country.”