DOHA (Al Jazeera) – Qatar’s labor minister has hit out at Western media for their coverage of the country’s preparations for the football World Cup, days before the Persian Gulf state becomes the first in the Middle East to host the event.
Speaking at a meeting hosted by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, Ali bin Samikh al-Marri said that while Qatar accepts constructive criticism, the campaign against his country had recently picked up pace.
Al-Marri in Brussels criticized the coverage of migrant worker deaths in preparation for the World Cup – with alleged figures ranging between 6,500 to 15,000 – as “circulated statistics [that] lack accuracy, credibility and integrity, and are not issued by documented bodies”.
“Every day, we hear a new slander about mortality rates of workers, as if we were in a ‘public auction’,” he said.
“I would like to stress the inaccuracy of these numbers. I would also implore all politicians to refer to official specialized organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) … when sourcing accurate information,” he said.
In February 2021, the Guardian newspaper reported that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in the country since 2010, when Qatar was awarded the World Cup.
The Qatari government has stated that these figures, provided by the respective countries’ embassies, included deaths of people not working on World Cup projects. It said, “The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population.”
The government said there were 37 deaths between 2014 and 2020 among workers directly linked to the construction of World Cup stadiums, of which three were “work-related”.
Last month, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said his country faced an “unprecedented campaign” of criticism in the lead-up to the event, which raised questions “about the real reasons and motives” behind the campaign. Senior Qatari officials have also denounced the “hypocrisy” of people calling for a boycott of the World Cup to protest against alleged human rights in the Persian Gulf country.