World Cup Daily, Day 25
They just don't care. Qatari World Cup organizers don't even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one.
DOHA, Qatar — They just don’t care.
The Supreme Committee in charge of Qatar’s World Cup doesn’t care that a Filipino migrant worker died at Saudi Arabia’s training resort during the group stage. He suffered a fatal blow to the head during a fall in a forklift accident (information that was kept under wraps until being broken by The Athletic’s Adam Crafton).
We know the Qatari Supreme Committee doesn’t care because its CEO, Nasser Al-Khater, told you all you needed to hear in an interview with the BBC that was breathtaking in its crassness.
“We’re in the middle of a World Cup, and we have a successful World Cup. And this is something that you want to talk about right now?” Al-Khater said when asked about the worker’s death. “I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep. Of course, a worker died. Our condolences go to his family. However, it’s strange that this is something that you wanted to focus on as your first question.”
He actually said that. But Al-Khater didn’t stop there.
GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.
“Everything that has been said and everything that has been reflected about worker deaths here has been absolutely false,” he said. “This theme, this negativity around the World Cup, has been something that we’ve been faced with, unfortunately. We are a bit disappointed that the journalists have been exacerbating this false narrative, and honestly I think a lot of the journalists have to question themselves and reflect on why they’ve been trying to bang on about the subject for so long.”
Just think of the context in which Al-Khater said this. A migrant worker died here during the World Cup. If I was a family member of the worker who died, I can’t imagine how I would feel.
Al-Khater and the Qataris really do see themselves as the victims here, and not what they really are: The rich and powerful petrobarons who have built an empire in the desert on the backs of far too many migrant workers who have been treated poorly and, yes, have died.
How many have died? We’ll never know for sure, in part because Qatar hasn’t cared enough to document the losses.
Last year, The Guardian’s Pete Pattisson cited government sources to report that more than 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar in the decade since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010. (A total of 40 deaths have been tied to World Cup stadium construction, though nearly all of Qatar’s infrastructure growth has some connection to the World Cup.)
Qatari officials claim the migrant mortality rate is within the expected range given the workforce size, but experts Amnesty International spoke to were skeptical of that claim because the data on migrant deaths is of such low quality.
Meanwhile, Amnesty says Qatar has failed to properly investigate up to 70 percent of its migrant worker deaths, noting that “in a well-resourced health system, it should be possible to identify the exact cause of death in all but 1 percent of cases.”
When a country fails to take the time to properly investigate up to 70 percent of its migrant worker deaths, that’s a sign: They just don’t care.
Last week, the general secretary of the Supreme Committee, Hassan Al-Thawadi, told Piers Morgan on his TV show that “between 400 and 500” migrant workers have died on World Cup-related projects. A Supreme Committee spokesperson later said those numbers referred to national statistics for all work-related deaths in Qatar from 2014 to 2020.
On Friday, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura didn’t look good either evading questions on the Filipino worker’s death at the Saudi camp:
Let me be clear here: Covering a worker’s death, covering issues of human rights and this World Cup, isn’t a sign of being anti-Islamic. The Middle East deserved to host a World Cup at some point. And Western countries have all sorts of their own problems. But this World Cup has been a human rights disaster. My friend Musa Okwonga got it right in a tweet thread more than a month ago:
Today we saw the evidence right in front of us from the CEO of the Qatari Supreme Committee organizing the World Cup. A worker died, and they just don’t care.