UK football club backs call to probe migrant worker deaths in Qatar


After drawing scrutiny from human rights organisation, Liverpool Football Club is backing a call for an investigation into migrant worker deaths in Qatar ahead of its FIFA Club World Cup match next week.

The Gulf state has come under scrutiny over what pressure groups describe as poor labour conditions as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, which it hopes will boost its economy and development.

Liverpool’s Chief Executive Peter Moore said the club had raised “a number of concerns” with Qatar and sought further information about Rupchandra Rumba, a 24-year-old Nepali migrant worker who died suddenly.

He was working as a scaffolder at the Education City football stadium, which will host a World Cup match in three years. Labour rights groups say the heat contributed to his death, which was attributed to natural causes.

Moore made the comment in a letter to the directors of human rights organisation Fair/Square, who had called on him to make a public statement ahead of Liverpool’s FIFA Club World Cup match.

“Like any responsible organisation, we support your assertion that any and all unexplained deaths should be investigated thoroughly and that bereaved families should receive the justice they deserve,” he wrote.

Qatar’s World Cup organisers declined to comment.

James Lynch, director of Fair/Square projects, praised Moore’s response.

“There has been a deafening silence on the deaths of workers in Qatar from institutions like FIFA and its sponsors, who should be rushing to understand why so many young men in Qatar are dying in such numbers every year,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Keen to show it is tackling allegations of worker exploitation, Doha this year adopted a new minimum wage law and will scrap mandatory exit visas for all workers, part of a broad labour reform program.

About 800,000 of Qatar’s two million migrant labourers work in the construction industry, including the Education City stadium, a new venue being built for the World Cup.

Many come from Asian countries like Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

The work involves often long hours in extreme heat in unshaded areas, which studies have linked to cardiac arrest and death.

May Romanos, a researcher for the human rights group Amnesty International called on all clubs and teams heading to Qatar to take a similar stand. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)