Qatar: migrant worker died during World Cup group stage, Fifa confirms

The Athletic reported that a Filipino known as Alex, estimated to be in his 40s, died while performing repairs to a hotel resort where the Saudi Arabia team was staying.

The chief executive of the Qatar World Cup said “death is a natural part of life” when asked about a migrant worker - thought to be in his 40s - who died during the group stage.

Nasser Al Khater, CEO of the tournament, confirmed that a worker died and offered condolences to his family, however he bristled when questioned about the death.

“Death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?“

The Athletic reported that a Filipino known as Alex, estimated to be in his 40s, died while performing repairs to a hotel resort where the Saudi Arabia team was staying. The sports website says hat he was involved in a forklift truck accident. The incident is being investigated by Qatari authorities.

Fifa has confirmed the death, saying: “Fifa is deeply saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts and sympathies are with the worker’s family. As soon as FIFA was made aware of the accident, we contacted the local authorities to request more details. Fifa will be in a position to comment further once the relevant processes in relation to the worker’s passing have been completed.”

A Qatari government official had said: “The incident is being investigated by the Qatari authorities. If the investigation concludes that safety protocols were not followed, the company will be subject to legal action and severe financial penalties.”

The spokesman added: “The rate of work-related accidents has consistently declined in Qatar since strict health and safety standards were introduced and enforcement has been stepped up through regular on-site inspections.”

The Qatar World Cup has been organised by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. It said as the incident happened on a public road, within the Fifa-controlled resort, it was a matter for the Qatari authorities. It added: “The Supreme Committee is following up with the same relevant authorities to ensure we are updated with developments pertaining to the investigation on a regular basis and has established contact with the family of the deceased to ensure relevant information is conveyed.”

A migrant worker has died during the World Cup. Credit: Mark Hall/NationalWorld

The treatment of migrant workers, who have helped build seven of the World Cup’s new stadiums and other infrastructure, has been one of the main controversies around holding the tournament in Qatar. More than 30,000 foreign labourers were hired just to build the stadiums, according to the government, most of whom came from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines.

Under the Gulf nation’s ‘Kafala System’, there is a set of labour laws which allows Qatari businesses or companies to confiscate their workers’ passports to stop them leaving the country. According to human rights groups, this has allowed developers to exploit their employees - submitting them to gruelling working conditions for little pay, forcing them to live in squalid accommodation, and not allowing them to leave their jobs.

England’s forward Harry Kane (L) shakes hands with migrant workers during a meeting at the Al Wakrah Stadium in Doha. Credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

A 2021 report by Human Rights Watch also revealed that foreign workers were suffering from “punitive and illegal wage deductions” and faced “months of unpaid wages for long hours of gruelling work”. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported in February 2021 that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid. The number is based on figures provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar.