Qatar hit back Tuesday against a “completely untrue” claim in a Washington Post story which estimated that 4,000 workers are likely to die on World Cup 2022 building sites.
A strongly-worded statement from Qatar’s Government Communication Office, claimed “enormous damage has been done to Qatar’s image and reputation” by the article, “The Human Toll of FIFA’s Corruption”.
Doha said in the statement that no one has died on World Cup construction sites.
“An article in the Washington Post… claimed that 4,000 workers are likely to die while working on World Cup sites and that some 1,200 had already lost their lives,” read the statement.
“This is completely untrue. In fact, after almost five million work-hours on World Cup construction sites, not a single worker’s life has been lost. Not one.”
The statement added that article meant “readers around the world have now been led to believe that thousands of migrant workers in Qatar have perished, or will perish, building the facilities for World Cup 2022 — a claim that has absolutely no basis in fact”.
The article, which was posted online on May 27, has been viewed more than five million times, said Qatar.
Doha says it wants the article corrected and retracted.
Qatar said it had written to the Washington Post to complain but was told because the “article had appeared online and not in print”, the letter would not be published.
It said the Washington Post had taken the “total annual mortality figures for Indian and Nepalese migrants working in Qatar and multiplied those numbers by the years remaining between now and the 2022 World Cup”.
Doha said the calculation made no distinction for how those deaths occurred.
It said 400 people would die from cardiovascular disease each year and these deaths would have occurred “even had they remained in their home countries”.
On its website, the Post said the story had been “updated to reflect the fact that figures include total migrant worker deaths in Qatar, not just World Cup-related deaths”.
Qatar has come under huge international pressure for its treatment of migrant labourers from rights groups, trades unions and campaigners.
The tiny Gulf state has been criticised for its use of the kafala system — which has been likened to modern-day slavery — confiscation of labourers’ passports, non-payment of staff, squalid accommodation and working conditions in fierce desert temperatures.
Some 3,500 labourers have worked on the five stadiums which are in the stages of preparation for football’s biggest tournament in seven years’ time.
There is also a vast army of some one million migrant workers working on related infrastructure projects, such as the building of a metro system.
Qatar has pledged to reform the kafala system, and a wage protection system will come into place this summer.
It is also building new accommodation for more than 250,000 World Cup labourers, but has faced further criticism for the slow pace of reform.