50 migrant workers died in Qatar in 2020: report

50 migrant workers died in Qatar in 2020: report
3 min read
19 November, 2021
Fifty migrant workers died in Qatar last year and over 500 were seriously injured, the UN's International Labour Organization said Friday, as the Gulf nation readies for the 2022 World Cup.
50 migrant workers died in Qatar in 2020: ILO [Getty]

Fifty migrant workers died in Qatar last year and over 500 were seriously injured, the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) said Friday, as the Gulf nation readies for the 2022 World Cup.

The report comes amid criticism of working conditions for hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers -- including those who built the stadiums for the World Cup.

The ILO report, entitled "One is too many", said that the top cause of fatalities were falls -- with most happening at the workplace.

Qatar, which has made a series of labour reforms since being selected to host the football tournament, welcomed the report saying it "highly values" its collaboration with the ILO.

"Severe occupational injuries were most commonly caused by falls, followed by road traffic injuries, falling objects and machinery," the report read.

"Thirty (deaths) occurred pre-hospital and 20 occurred in hospital," it added, which ILO says is the most comprehensive picture ever of work-related deaths in the country.

The ILO said that there were 506 recorded severe injuries -- an average of 42 a month -- with 37,600 people suffering mild to moderate injuries.

Most of those injured came from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, and worked mainly in the construction industry.

The report said it also identified gaps in data collection.

"It's not collected in a systematic way," said Max Tunon, head of the ILO project office in Qatar, with the report calling for a "national integrated platform" to collate injury data.

"Another key recommendation is to better investigate death that hadn't been categorised as work-related -- but could be work-related," Tunon said.

"Qatar... will continue working with the ILO to ensure that labour reforms are implemented effectively, and that Qatar is continuously improving labour practices and increasing safety for all workers," a Qatar government statement read.

Qatar has issued a string of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host the World Cup, including introducing a $275 monthly minimum wage and simplifying the process for changing employers.

More than two million foreigners work in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast infrastructure projects for the World Cup.

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In August, Amnesty International criticised Qatar for failing to investigate thousands of unexplained deaths. And a widely-reported Guardian newspaper analysis in February concluded 6,500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010.

However, Tunon cautioned that Qatar worker death data is frequently reported without necessary nuance.

"The [Guardian's] number includes all deaths in the migrant population ... without differentiation between migrant workers and the general migrant population, let alone fatalities that resulted from occupational injuries," the ILO said.

Qatar has introduced several labour reforms in recent years, including tougher rules designed to protect workers from heat and raising the minimum wage.

"No other country has come so far on labour reform in such a short amount of time, but we acknowledge that there is more work to be done," the Qatar government press office said, adding it was reviewing the ILO recommendations.