How Many People Died Building the Qatar Stadiums?

February 28, 2024

Tej Narayan Tharu was a 24-year-old with a family and a future. Then he died on the job. That one death, in the summer of 2018, made him a footnote to a much larger controversy.

That controversy centers on the treatment of migrant workers who built more than $200 billion worth of structures for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, including seven new stadiums and major upgrades to roads and public transport, as well as hotels and skyscrapers and a whole new city called Lusail. The government has said that only three of the deaths that have been attributed to World Cup construction have been work-related, but that is widely considered to be an undercount.

A top official on the committee overseeing the event, Hassan al-Thawadi, recently said that "between 400 and 50" migrant worker deaths had been tied to World Cup construction sites, a far higher number than any Qatari authorities had previously put forward. His statement sparked a backlash from critics, reinvigorating a debate over how the tournament has been built and what effect the Qatari government’s exploitation of its low-wage workforce has had on human rights in the Gulf country.

Qatar is a world leader in natural gas exports, but it has been under intense pressure to address its poor human rights record. It has introduced some labor law reforms, but critics say they are not being fully implemented. Workers still face wage theft, poor working conditions, insufficient rest days and other abuses, including the undocumented deaths of many workers that are never investigated.


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