Hotter than 90C during summer as workers from poorer countries scrap to be first in queue for Qatar World Cup
Qatar’s migrant workers face heat, exploitation and death in race to build World Cup venues
The world’s largest outdoor air-conditioned stadium built in rapid time for the World Cup: it’s no wonder workers are prepared to burn themselves to death.
Qatar World Cup stadium construction forced workers to work in heat, says Amnesty Read more
The seven-acre cooling centre of the Hamad Real Estates’ Khalifa International Stadium is clad in glass and so air-conditioned that its dark green coating obscures the outside sunlight coming in off the Al Udeid air base across the border.
It’s got high vents for sweat as workers continue their gruelling construction.
The gigantic cooling centre is the work of Schoeller Heimbrock Diehl, a German engineering company that landed the contract in 2016 from the Qatar Foundation, to cool the hottest part of the stadium which will host England v Belgium and Croatia v Argentina in the World Cup group stage next summer.
Qatar has a reputation for constructing stadiums before building permanent infrastructure, to speed up construction of the 36 stadiums it plans to stage the tournament.
It has suffered repeated criticism from rights groups over its conditions for migrant workers in the country, where more than 4,500 workers are killed each year in the World Cup building season.
There were 6,357 workers on construction sites in Qatar at the end of June this year. The number of building visas issued to foreign workers has soared in recent years, surpassing 114,000 in 2016, according to local media, rising more than 90% in the last two years alone.
The World Cup itself, delayed by two years, is set to be played in five host cities, each one with their own stadium, and a fourth is likely to be granted the tournament at a later date.
The award of the hosting rights to the tiny emirate in 2010 did not put any extra pressure on Qatar to improve its human rights record, according to human rights groups. It has only improved in recent years, and after an international storm about migrant workers dying on building sites this year, Qatar’s relationship with the foreign construction sector has suffered because of the public backlash against its migrant workers.
This June Amnesty International reported horrific deaths, saying a total of 117 were recorded in 2017. It called for an independent inquiry into conditions for workers on World Cup stadiums and for construction companies to disclose whether workers had been paid for the time they had been taken off site for safety issues.
According to an AP report, workers reported being offered free food for a post-hours meal and free transport to the stadium, as well as such things as bottles of water during the day.
Authorities have only begun to track deaths at all sites this year, the story said.
Garbage men take an unpaid lunch break in Doha. Photograph: Ahmad Alsuleiman/AP
The pace of building continues unabated.
Caroline Kingsmill, a secondary school social worker in Qatar, has been working with students and staff since the school was designated as one of the small number to receive Qatar Foundation’s “Queen’s Trust”, a secondary school created to absorb the cost of educating pupils from migrant labourers.
The school has students from 87 different nationalities and from 77 different countries. There are 17 different nationalities registered to work at the school, including Tamil, Filipino, Egyptian, Brazilian, Dominican and Egyptian – although the majority of staff are from Britain, the US and India.
Kingsmill said that during summer, the school faced difficulty adapting to the sun’s extremes: “It’s not uncommon to see bodies around buildings. In summer there is a pressure on things not to have schools with open windows. When summer does hit it means more of a short-term danger.”
She added: “In Qatar there are few experiences of natural light. It’s blazing hot.”
Although staff and students are forced to wear masks during summer months, it’s not enough.
“People are taking out umbrellas and other garments on top of buildings, which is making it much hotter in the building.”