A top official with ties to Qatar’s World Cup organization has estimated that up to 500 migrant workers died while working on the $200 billion tournament complex in Doha, a much higher figure than previously stated.
The shocking figure was revealed by Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in an interview with journalist Piers Morgan, excerpts of which were shared on Twitter Monday.
Morgan, speaking from a location near the contentious tournament site, asked al-Thawadi for a “honest, realistic” total of migrant workers killed as a result of the infrastructure project since its inception in 2014.
“The estimate is between 400 and 500,” al-Thawadi replied, noting that the exact number is “something that is being discussed.”
Al-Thawadi’s estimate was a significant increase over Doha’s previous statistics, which cited 40 worker deaths related to stadium construction.
Thirty-seven of these fatalities were determined to be unrelated to work, while one report claimed another casualty was caused by COVID-19. Al-Thawadi reportedly mentioned the original number earlier in the interview, before revealing the higher death toll for all sites.
While al-Thawadi praised the construction crews for updating their regulations when it was clear that “improvements had to happen,” his remarks are likely to reignite the intense human rights scrutiny that hung over the World Cup’s kickoff earlier this month.
“For him now to come and say there is hundreds, it’s shocking,” Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, told the Associated Press. “They have no idea what’s going on.”
Qadri’s concerns dovetail with a previous statement by Amnesty International, which cited evidence of the appalling living conditions, delayed salaries and forced labor endured by migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
“My life here is like a prison,” Deepak, a metalworker on the Khalifa Stadium, reportedly told the organization.
The level of criticism leveled at both Qatar and FIFA prompted celebrities such as Dua Lipa and Shakira to either skip the opening ceremony or deny any involvement with the event.
Morgan Freeman, the Oscar winner, was later chastised for his role in the event, in which he narrated a segment of the elaborate spectacle.
Qatar has also come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ+ rights, especially after a World Cup ambassador stated that gay people “have damage in their minds.” FIFA prohibited players from wearing “OneLove” armbands, prompting the German team to cover their mouths in protest before their match against Japan last week.