The death of South Asian migrant workers in Qatar has cast a shadow over the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar was awarded hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup in 2010, shocking much of the soccer world. At the time, many believed that Fifa would give the hosting duties to the United States, who will now host jointly with Mexico and Canada in 2026.
In the years since Qatar was awarded the World Cup, activists have encouraged fans to boycott the event because of the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is technically punishable by death.
More recently, news about the treatment of South Asian migrant workers who have helped build the stadiums and facilities that players and fans will use over the next few weeks. In February 2021, The Guardian published an article reporting that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country had been awarded the World Cup.
The Guardian got their data from organizations and countries tracking the deaths of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They believe the death toll is higher because they do not include the deaths from countries, like Philippines and Kenya, who send large numbers of workers to Qatar.
According to The Guardian, 37 deaths among workers were linked to the construction of World Cup stadiums. Thirty-four of the deaths were classified as “non-work related.”
Government officials in Qatar told CNN that the Guardian’s article and data were “wildly misleading.” They felt the Guardian was attempting to attribute all of the deaths to the World Cup.
“The 6,500 figure takes the number of all foreign worker deaths in the country over a 10-year period and attributes it to the World Cup,” the official said. “This is not true and neglects all other causes of death including illness, old age and traffic accidents. It also fails to recognize that only 20% of foreign workers in Qatar are employed on construction sites.”
The death of migrant workers who helped build the stadiums is not the only concern. According to NPR, migrant workers have also suffered severe injuries and wage-theft.
TIME Magazine reports that fans and celebrities have announced that they will be boycotting the World Cup. The death of migrant workers are a motivating factor, but many people boycotting are also frustrated with the country’s homophobic laws.
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