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Qatar: Guardian investigation finds that migrant workers continue to die from ‘heat stress’, fatalies not adequately investigated by govt.

In October 2019 a Guardian investigation into working conditions for migrant workers in Qatar found that hundreds of labourers are estimated to be dying from 'heat stress' every year. 

During the construction boom leading up to the FIFA World Cup 2022, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across Asia and Africa have worked in temperatures of 45C for up to ten hours per day. Recent research by climatologists examined the deaths of 1,300 Nepali workers between 2009-2017; the data clearly demonstrates that the number of deaths increases as the temperature rises over the hotter months of the year. 

Heat stress deaths from fatal heart attacks and respiratory issues are brought on by exposure to very high temperatures during prolonged periods of work, yet the Qatari authorities mostly attribute these to ‘natural causes’. Postmortems are forbidden by Qatari law except in specific circumstances, and when deaths of workers are not recognised as work-related, families of workers are not entitled to compensation. 

The Qatari authorities claim to have taken sufficient measures to protect workers against the heat. A working ban is in place between 11.30 and 3pm during summer months prohibiting work in unshaded outdoor areas. The ban is not weather dependent, however, meaning that workers continue to be exposed to dangerous temperatures and humidity outside of these dates. 

In response to the investigation, Human Rights Watch stated that Qatari authorities must enforce working bans and put in place adequate measures for outdoor workers to protect against potentially fatal heat-related illness. HRW also recommended that labour-sending countries such as Nepal, India and Bangladesh, require Qatar to investigate worker deaths and make data publicly available. In response, the Qatari authorities published a statement noting the development of specific guidance, together with the ILO, for employers to mitigate risk of heat stress. The authorities also noted the suspension of 300 work sites in violation of the ban during inspections carried out in the summer of 2019.

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Company response
16 October 2019

FIFA Statement on the ILO study on heat stress in Qatar of 11 October 2019 and on an article in The Guardian on that same topic of 2 October 2019

Author: FIFA

The welfare and rights of workers associated with the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar are of paramount importance to FIFA and its partners... This includes the implementation of measures to prevent heat stress on FIFA World Cup sites...

FIFA was pleased to read that the study confirmed the effectiveness of the heat stress plans implemented by the Supreme Committee...

We urge the authorities to work with the ILO to ensure that the results of the heat stress study are translated into strengthened regulations...

FIFA continues to engage with the Supreme Committee and other parties towards ensuring respect for the rights and health of workers who are involved in FIFA World Cup-related activities.

Download the full document here

Item
16 October 2019

Response to the Guardian newspaper

Author: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

The SC’s main contractors are required to put in place a comprehensive heat stress management plan that is reviewed and approved by the SC...

The SC investigates all non-work-related deaths and work-related fatalities in line with our Incident Investigation Procedure to identify contributory factors and establish how they could have been prevented...

The SC can confirm that Rup Chandra Rumba, a Nepalese national, died on 23 June 2019 in his accommodation. The cause of death was acute cardio-respiratory failure, due to natural causes.

Download the full document here

Article
10 October 2019

Qatar: Urgently Investigate Migrant Worker Deaths

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Qatar should thoroughly and urgently investigate and publicize the underlying causes of migrant worker deaths in light of new medical research concluding that heatstroke is a likely cause of cardiovascular fatalities among these workers.. authorities should also immediately adopt and enforce adequate restrictions on outdoor work to protect workers...

“The sudden and unexpected deaths of often young and healthy migrant workers in Qatar have gone uninvestigated by Qatari authorities, in apparent disregard for workers’ lives,” said Sarah Leah Whitson [Middle East director, HRW] . “Qatar cannot claim to uphold migrant workers’ rights as long as it ignores urgent and repeated calls for lifesaving reforms that protect workers from the heat."

 

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Article
7 October 2019

Sudden deaths of hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar not investigated

Author: Pete Pattisson & Roshan Sedhai, The Guardian (UK)

Qatar is failing to investigate the sudden deaths of hundreds of migrant workers...

... [who] die each year, with the majority of the fatalities attributed to heart attacks or “natural causes” by the Qatari authorities...

In 2014... DLA Piper [Qatar's own lawyers], “strongly” recommended that it commissioned research into the deaths of migrant workers from cardiac arrest. Yet so far it has failed to take action...

A forensic expert in Qatar told the Guardian that in the majority of these cases, only an external examination is performed to determine the cause of death.

Qatar’s reluctance to perform autopsies has left families across south Asia confused and suspicious about how their loved ones died.

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Article
2 October 2019

Revealed: hundreds of migrant workers dying from heat stress in Qatar each year

Author: Annie Kelly, Niamh Macintyre & Pete Pattison, The Guardian (UK)

Migrant labourers are being worked to death in searing temperatures in Qatar, with hundreds estimated to be dying from heat stress every year...

hundreds of thousands of migrant workers [toil] in temperatures of up to 45C for up to 10 hours a day as Qatar’s construction boom hit its peak ahead of the Fifa World Cup 2022...

Recent research... concluded that the deaths were likely to be caused by heatstroke...

“As global temperatures rise because of the climate crisis, the health risk posed by heat stress will have devastating health consequences for millions, yet is still not being seen as the emergency that it is,” says Professor Tord Kjellstrom [UN environmental and occupational health].

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