A Qatar rights body said Tuesday that the death of over 450 Indian workers in almost two years in the country hosting the 2022 World Cup was “normal” given the size of the community.
Estimated at around 500,000, “Indians make up the largest community in Qatar… twice the number of Qatari nationals,” said Ali bin Sumaikh al-Marri, head of the National Human Rights Committee, which is close to the government.
The gas-rich Gulf state has faced mounting criticism from human rights groups over the safety and working conditions of migrants working in its booming construction industry.
In response to a Right to Information request filed by AFP, the Indian embassy in Qatar gave figures detailing the number of deaths in 2012 and the first 11 months of 2013.
On average about 20 migrants died per month, peaking at 27 in August last year. There were 237 fatalities in 2012 and another 218 in 2013 up to December 5, according to the embassy figures.
“If we look at the numbers of Qataris who died … of natural causes … over the past two years, we see that numbers of deaths among the Indian community are normal,” Marri told AFP.
He demanded clarifications on the circumstances of the reported deaths, insisting that there is a “campaign against Qatar.”
The embassy did not give any details about the circumstances of the deaths, but the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said the data showed an “exceptionally high mortality rate.”
The bad publicity surrounding Qatar’s record on worker rights has until now mostly been focused on Nepalese workers whose plight has been highlighted in a string of media reports.
An official at the Nepalese embassy in Doha told AFP last month that 191 deaths had been registered in 2013, many of them from “unnatural” heart failure, compared with 169 the year before.
Most of the labourers working on the new stadiums and vast infrastructure projects ahead of football’s biggest tournament in the wealthy Gulf state are from South Asia.
Qatar this month revealed a set of guidelines aimed at protecting the rights of thousands of expatriate workers employed on its construction projects.