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30 Aug 2021

Qatar: Amnesty International finds failure to investigate deaths of thousands of migrant workers, despite evidence of links between premature deaths & unsafe working conditions

A new report by Amnesty International underscores the Qatari authorities' failure to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the past decade. The report builds on the analysis of 18 death certificates issued by the Qatari authorities as well as interviews with the families of six male workers (Four construction workers, one security guard and one truck driver) all of whom were between 30 and 40 years old when they died.

According to the report, thousands of migrant workers have died unexpectedly in Qatar over the past decade, despite passing their mandatory medical tests before starting their jobs in the country. Yet, the causes of their deaths have remained unexplained. The report says that Qatar has not been able to identify the cause of death in the majority of cases (almost 70% of the cases of workers deaths), despite evidence of links between the migrant workers deaths and their unsafe working conditions.

The report further accuses Qatar of issuing death certificates for migrant workers without carrying out adequate investigations into the cause of death, and the authorities have attributed the majority of deaths to “natural causes”, cardiac or respiratory failure. Qatar's failure to conduct adequate investigations and remedy the migrant workers’ deaths, constitute a violation of Qatar obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the report says.

The report urges the Qatari authorities to strengthen its law on heat stress to ensure that migrant workers are protected from extreme heat as well as to establish a specialist team to investigate migrant workers death in accordance with international best practice.

The Qatari authorities have rejected Amnesty International claims of unexplained deaths of migrant workers, pointing to the recent improvements made in the labor laws to protect migrant workers.

According to the report, one of the workers was a security guard at Hamad International Airport and reportedly died due to unsafe working conditions. The Business & Human Rights Centre contacted Hamad International Airport and Qatar Airways to provide comments to the concerns raised by the report; they did not respond.

“We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully investigate all deaths of migrant workers. If workers have been exposed to dangerous conditions such as extreme heat, and no other cause of death can be established, Qatar must provide families with adequate compensation, and take immediate action to strengthen protections for other workers. The failure to investigate, remedy and prevent the deaths of migrant workers is a breach of Qatar’s obligation to uphold and protect the right to life.”
Amnesty International
“These are phrases that should not be included on a death certificate without a further qualification explaining the underlying cause. Essentially, everyone dies of respiratory or cardiac failure in the end and the phrases are meaningless without an explanation of the reason why.”
Dr David Bailey, pathologist and member of the WHO Working Group on death certification
“Qatar remains steadfast in its commitment to labour reform and will not be thrown off course by any organisation that seeks to discredit the progress we have made.”
A government spokesman

Company Responses

Hamad International Airport

No Response

Qatar Airways

No Response

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