In Depth

Qatar 2022: Human Rights Watch calls for construction worker protection

Workers on World Cup projects are at risk of death from intense heat and humidity

Qatar’s 2022 Fifa World Cup preparations are again under the spotlight after Human Rights Watch released a study about migrant construction workers who are at risk from the Gulf country’s intense heat and humidity. 

In its report, the group called on Qatari authorities to “adopt and enforce adequate restrictions” on outdoor work - and investigate the causes of migrant worker deaths. 

Current regulations in Qatar only prohibit outdoor work from 11.30am to 3pm from 15 June to 31 August. But Human Rights Watch cites climate data that shows conditions in Qatar outside those hours and dates reach levels that can result in “potentially fatal heat-related illnesses in the absence of appropriate rest”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Enforcing appropriate restrictions on outdoor work and regularly investigating and publicising information about worker deaths is essential to protect the health and lives of construction workers in Qatar.

“Limiting work hours to safe temperatures – not set by a clock or calendar – is well within the capacity of the Qatari government and will help protect hundreds of thousands of workers.”

Of Qatar’s two million migrant labourers, approximately 40%, or 800,000, work in construction. Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure projects are costing a reported $500m (£372.9m) per week and include the construction and restoration of eight stadiums, hotels and transport links.

Human Rights Watch reports that, to strengthen the “inadequate” heat laws for workers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar’s 2022 organisers, introduced work-to-rest ratios for workers on World Cup projects last year.

But these requirements only apply to 12,000 workers on the World Cup stadiums - and don’t take into account the effect of sunlight, Human Rights Watch warns.

According to the rights group, the Supreme Committee said it expects the number of workers on its projects “to peak at around 35,000 by late 2018 or early 2019”.

Whitson added: “If Qatar’s World Cup organisers can mandate a climate-based work ban, then the Qatar government can follow its lead as a step towards providing better protection from heat for all workers.

“As Qatar scales up its FIFA World Cup construction projects, authorities need to scale up transparency about worker deaths that could be heat related, and take urgent steps to end risks to workers from heat.”

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