How Many People Died in Qatar Building the World Cup Stadiums?

March 4, 2024

As football fans flock to Qatar for the World Cup, activists say thousands of migrant workers have died in building the stadiums and infrastructure needed to host the tournament. The emirate has denied the claim, and taken steps to improve labor conditions, but critics say the deaths continue to occur.

The death toll has been a subject of intense scrutiny, with some workers citing alleged abuses such as paying exorbitant fees to recruiters, nonpayment of wages and appalling living conditions in work camps. Human rights groups have also criticized Qatar for the kafala system, which grants companies control over migrants’ employment and immigration status, making it difficult to unionize.

In a television interview, the secretary general of Qatar’s organizing committee said that between three and five workers died from work-related accidents at stadium sites. But the committee later walked back that claim, saying there were 414 work-related fatalities in Qatar, including all sectors and nationalities, between 2014 and 2020.

The figures aren’t precise enough to show how many deaths are directly related to the construction of the eight World Cup stadiums and other projects, NBC News found. The 15,021 figure quoted by Amnesty International comes from a 2021 Guardian report that cited data from national embassies. But that figure doesn’t include deaths from nations such as Kenya and the Philippines, which have large migrant populations in Qatar. It also doesn’t count deaths from a variety of other jobs, including security staff or gardeners.

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