Indian worker death rate in Qatar 'normal'

Migrant workers at a construction site in Qatar (3 October 2013) Earlier this month, the organisers of the 2022 World Cup published a "workers' charter"

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Indian and Qatari officials have insisted the death rate among Indian workers in the 2022 World Cup host nation is not abnormal.

The Indian embassy in Doha revealed on Monday that 455 Indians had died in 2012 and 2013, prompting concerns from labour organisations.

But a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry said the "overwhelming number" of deaths were due to natural causes.

The emirate has been under pressure to improve conditions for migrant workers.

'Horrendous'

Following a freedom of information request by the AFP news agency, the embassy published figures showing that 237 Indian workers had died in Qatar in 2012 and 218 in the first 11 months of 2013. On average, about 20 died per month, peaking at 27 in August.

Start Quote

Figures for the number of Indian deaths in the last five years remain consistent... These are not in any way attributable to any one cause or the other”

End Quote Syed Akbaruddin Indian Ministry of External Affairs

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said the data showed "an exceptionally high mortality rate", while Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas McGeehan said the figures were "horrendous" and gave "an indication of an unfolding tragedy in Qatar".

But the head of Qatar's National Human Rights Committee, which is close to the government, insisted there was nothing untoward given that there were about 500,000 Indians living in the emirate.

"Indians make up the largest community in Qatar... twice the number of Qatari nationals," Ali Bin Sumaikh al-Marri told AFP on Wednesday.

"If we look at the numbers of Qataris who died... of natural causes... over the past two years, we see that numbers of deaths among the Indian community are normal."

He also urged the embassy to provide details on the circumstances of the deaths, claiming that there was a "campaign against Qatar".

A spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, told the BBC that India had "a large, diverse and well regarded community in Qatar".

He added: "Figures for the number of Indian deaths in the last five years remain consistent. These are not in any way attributable to any one cause or the other."

Andrew North reported from Nepal on the plight of migrant workers in November 2013

But Mr McGeehan told al-Jazeera that it was not helpful to dismiss them as normal and claim their publication was part of a campaign against Qatar when the country had a poor safety record.

Last month, AFP reported that 191 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar in 2013, many of them from "unnatural" heart failure, taking the total to at least 360 over two years.

The World Cup organisers subsequently published a "workers' charter", in response to a call from football world governing body Fifa for Qatar's working practices to be revised.

But the ITUC said it did not go far enough, while Amnesty International has called for the organising committee to provide more information about how it will enforce standards.

In November, Amnesty published a report on Qatar's construction sector that documented a range of abuses against migrant workers, including "non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation".

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