More than 450 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar in the last two years - the grim statistics once again underscoring the worrisome human rights record of the Gulf state, which is racing to complete mega-construction project ahead of the 2022 football World Cup.
The Indian embassy in Doha revealed this information in response to a Right to Information request that was filed by AFP.
The data showed that 237 Indian workers had died in 2012 alone, and another 218, the following year. The shocking numbers, compiled till December 5, showed that the average monthly death toll on Indian expat workers in Qatar is around 20. The monthly fatalities had peaked in August 2013, when 27 people had died.
The Indian embassy has not provided details regarding the causes or the locations of the deaths. Neither did it reveal its correspondence with the government in New Delhi regarding the overall condition of Indian nationals in the Gulf country.
Nevertheless, these disclosures buttressed revelations by rights organisations about Qatar's poor human rights record. Salil Shetty, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said in November 2013 during the release of a report by the group, that employers in Qatar had showed "an appalling disregard for the basic human rights of migrant workers".
An interview with a representative of Doha's main hospital revealed that more than 1,000 people, falling from heights, while at work, had been admitted to the trauma unit of the facility in 2012. Ten per cent of these were disabled, and the resulting mortality rate was "significant".
In 2013, the International Labour Organisation slammed Qatar for failing to implement an international convention banning the use of forced labour.
Apart from Indians, South Asian migrant workers from other nations also appear to have suffered serious loss of life as construction companies in Qatar scrambled to complete infrastructure projects ahead of the World Cup. The Guardian has reported that 400 migrants from Nepal have died at construction sites in Qatar.
In its defence, Qatar has issued detailed guidelines on February 11 that are meant to protect the country's burgeoning expatriate community from exploitation, in the face of mounting international criticism regarding Doha's human rights record. The 50-page document does set out detailed standards on payment of wages, accommodation and welfare, but its guidelines cover the construction of stadiums alone.
The conditions of expat workers in Qatar echoed powerfully in the European parliament last Thursday, where Theo Zwanzinger, Germany's member of the FIFA executive, acknowledged that the condition of migrant workers in Qatar were "absolutely unacceptable". However, he stressed that there would be no reversal in the decision to host the World Cup in the Gulf state. "This feudal system existed [in Qatar] before the World Cup," he said. "What do you expect of a football organisation? FIFA is not the lawmaker in Qatar."