A top official linked to Qatar’s World Cup organization has estimated that as many as 500 migrant workers died while building the $200 billion tournament complex in Doha – a much higher number than previously stated.

Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, disclosed the shocking figure in an interview with journalist Piers Morgan, parts of which were shared on Twitter Monday

Speaking from a location near the controversial tournament site, Morgan asked al-Thawadi for an “honest, realistic” total of migrant workers who died as a result of the infrastructure project since it began in 2014. 

A migrant laborer paints The Pearl Monument on the Doha skyline ahead of the World Cup.
A migrant laborer paints The Pearl Monument on the Doha skyline ahead of the World Cup.
AP

“The estimate is between 400 and 500,” al-Thawadi replied, noting that the exact number is “something that is being discussed.”

Al-Thawadi’s estimate was a steep jump from Doha’s previous statistics, which cited 40 worker deaths related to building the stadiums. Thirty-seven of these fatalities were deemed non-work-related, while one report claimed another casualty was due to COVID-19. Al-Thawadi reportedly mentioned this original number earlier in the interview, before giving the higher death toll for all the sites.

While al-Thawadi praised the construction crews for updating their regulations when it was clear “improvements have to happen,” his comments are likely to reignite the intense human rights scrutiny that hovered over the World Cup’s kickoff earlier this month. 

Workers remove scaffolding at the Al Bayt stadium, one of the stadiums located outside of Doha.
Workers remove scaffolding at the Al Bayt stadium, one of the stadiums located outside of Doha.
AP

“For him now to come and say there is hundreds, it’s shocking,” Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, told The Associated Press. “They have no idea what’s going on.”

Qadri’s concerns dovetail with a previous statement by Amnesty International, which cited evidence of the appalling living conditions, delayed salaries, and forced labor endured by migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

“My life here is like a prison,” Deepak, a metal worker on the Khalifa Stadium, reportedly told the organization.

Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium in Dec. 2019.
Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium in Dec. 2019.
AP

The amount of criticism aimed at both Qatar and FIFA prompted celebrities, including Dua Lipa and Shakira, to either bow out of the opening ceremony or deny any affiliation with the event. Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman was subsequently slammed for his own role in the event, during which he narrated a segment of the elaborate spectacle. 

Qatar is also under fire for its stance on LGBTQ+ rights, particularly after a World Cup ambassador said that gay people “have damage in their mind.” FIFA discouraged players from wearing “OneLove” armbands, prompting the German team to cover their mouths in protest before last week’s face-off against Japan.

Al-Thawadi’s statement invites other questions about the accuracy of government and private business oversight on worker injuries and deaths across the Gulf region, where the area’s iconic skyscrapers are built by laborers from Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan. Previous reports already claimed that officials are conscripting civilians– only 380,000 of whom are Qatari nationals– to work security at the 29-day tournament.

Pakistani migrant laborers pose for a photograph as they take a break on the corniche overlooking the skyline of Doha last month.
Pakistani migrant laborers pose for a photograph as they take a break on the corniche overlooking the skyline of Doha last month.
AP

“Most people are there because they have to be,” a source told Reuters of the police. “They don’t want to get in trouble.”

With Post wires





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