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Dhaka Tribune

What is fueling Bangladeshi migrant deaths in Qatar?

Bangladeshi migrant deaths in Qatar nearly quadrupled over the last decade

Update : 20 Apr 2022, 10:37 AM

Preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar are going on in full swing, but a dark cloud of human rights abuse allegations looms over the massive development work for the global event. 

Qatar saw an influx of migrant workers to build new stadiums, airports, roads, and transport systems ahead of the World Cup; and a significant number of unexplained deaths among the workers have raised questions over whether they are treated fairly. At least 6,500 South Asian migrant workers, including 1,000 Bangladeshis, died in Qatar from 2011 till 2020. 

This correspondent attempted to contact Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed and Secretary Dr Ahmed Munirus Salehin for their comments on the migrant deaths in Qatar on multiple occasions, but the calls remained unanswered.

Impossible workload

Khairun Begum has been struggling to raise her teen-aged children since losing her husband in Qatar 14 months ago. The last time she heard from him, he was suffering from severe jaundice and fighting for his life at a Qatar hospital.

She suspected that her husband’s high workload may have been behind his health problems.

Kamal, another migrant worker, went to Qatar six years ago as a construction worker. Later he died of a stroke. 

His younger brother Aladin Miah told Dhaka Tribune his brother used to call his family and tell them he could not bear the heavy workload, and that the pay was not worth it.

In April, the UN labour agency joined Amnesty International in calling on World Cup hosts Qatar to protect thousands of security guards, including those from Bangladesh, who a report said were victims of "forced labour".   

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Abuse rampant

According to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, 821,865 Bangladeshi workers are employed in Qatar.

A report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre published on April 1 found that at least 24,400 migrant workers, mostly from Bangladesh, Nepal and India, were abused in 211 incidents linked to World Cup projects between 2016 and 2022.

Mohammad Shahid Miah, a Bangladeshi expatriate, was among these 1,178 people. He was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came in contact with exposed electricity cables.

Shahid had paid a recruitment agent more than £3,500 to secure his job in Qatar in 2017. The debt has now been passed on to his distraught and impoverished parents, who say they have yet to receive any compensation from Shahid’s employer or the Qatari government.

According to data compiled by The Guardian, an average of 12 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have died each week between 2011 and 2020.

Official reasons given in the data on the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar included multiple blunt injuries due to falls from height, asphyxia due to hanging, and undetermined cause of death due to decomposition.

The data said the most common reasons for the deaths were acute heart or respiratory failure.

“The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country,” the Qatari government said in a recent statement.

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