Qatar has launched a work safety investigation into the death of a worker after reports that a man died at a training site during the World Cup, marked by controversy over the host country’s treatment of migrant workers.
Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the 2022 World Cup in Doha, confirmed to Reuters that a worker died, without providing specifics. Al Khater also stated that “death is a natural part of life” while offering condolences to the worker’s family and voicing disappointment at journalists’ questions.
“Death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep,” Khater told reports. “We’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?”
In an official statement, Qatar government officials said: “If the investigation concludes that safety protocols were not followed, the company will be subject to legal action and severe financial penalties. The statement added that “the rate of work-related accidents has consistently declined in Qatar since strict health and safety standards were introduced and enforcement has been stepped up.”
The Athletic reported on Wednesday that a Filipino man contracted to fix lights in a car park at the Sealine Resort – the training site for the Saudi Arabia national team, died after he “slipped off a ramp while walking alongside [a] vehicle and fell headfirst against concrete”.
Citing multiple unnamed sources, the report claimed the accident occurred during the World Cup, but did not specify when. The resort did not immediately respond to a Reuters query.
Qatar had come under increasing scrutiny by human rights groups since being awarded World Cup hosting rights in 2010 over its treatment of migrant workers, who account for the majority of the Gulf state’s population.
The tournament, the first to be held in the Middle East where other countries have also faced criticism over migrant workers’ rights, has been mired in controversy with some soccer stars and European official criticising Qatar’s human rights record, including on labour, LGBT+ and women’s rights.
Qatar’s World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said in a statement that it was not involved in the Qatari investigation as “the deceased (was) working as a contractor, not under the remit of the SC”.
The number of work-related deaths in Qatar is in dispute. The Guardian reported last year that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many of them likely to have been working on World Cup preparations – had died in Qatar since it won the right to stage the event, according to the paper’s calculations from official records.
In response, Qatar have said that the number of deaths was proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce, and included many non-manual workers, adding that every life lost was a tragedy.
The SC has previously said that three work-related deaths and 37 non-work-related deaths have occurred on World Cup related projects. In a recent TV interview, Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the SC, estimated that the number of migrant workers who have died on World Cup-related projects was “between 400 and 500.”