Doha (AFP) – The Qatar World Cup has been “unfairly treated and scrutinised” for years, its chief executive said on Saturday, hitting back at criticism over its human rights record.
CEO Nasser al-Khater said Qatar has not been given enough credit for its labour reforms aimed at improving conditions for migrant workers, mostly from South Asia.
Since 2014, three people have died in accidents at World Cup sites, while 39 have died in “non-work related” incidents deemed natural causes, officials said.
“Qatar has been unfairly treated and scrutinised for a number of years,” Khater told media just over a year before the tournament starts on November 21, 2022.
“There is criticism, yes, there is work that needs to be done. There is however a lot of progress.”
Some European teams have highlighted the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers during World Cup qualifiers, and F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton also raised the issue at this week’s inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.
But Khater said there had been “extraordinary” progress, including the introduction of a minimum wage and improvements to working conditions and accommodation.
“The amount of achievements that have been done over the past seven, eight, nine years, it’s quite extraordinary. Now unfortunately, people don’t like to report on that,” he said.
“You take it into the context of the region also. I think Qatar is a trailblazer right now with all the reform that it’s done.”
Qatar has issued a string of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host the World Cup, including introducing a $275 monthly minimum wage and simplifying the process for changing employers.
More than two million foreigners work in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast infrastructure projects for the World Cup.
Fifty workers died in Qatar last year and more than 500 were seriously injured, the United Nations’ International Labour Organization said in a report this week.
It highlighted gaps in data collection and recommended more investigation into deaths that were categorised as non-work related.
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