World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi says between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died as a result of work done on projects connected to the tournament — a greater figure than Qatari officials have cited previously.

In an interview with Piers Morgan that aired on TalkTV on Monday, Al-Thawadi was asked about the number of fatalities to migrant workers as a result of the work done in the tournament.

“The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500,” he said.

Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the World Cup organising committee talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Doha, Qatar, on March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File) (AP)

“I don’t have the exact number, that’s something that’s been discussed. One death is too many, it’s as simple as that.”

Al-Thawadi added: “I think every year the health and safety standards on the sites are improving, at least on our sites, the World Cup sites, the ones that we’re responsible for, most definitely.”

In November 2022, a government official told CNN there had been three work-related deaths on World Cup stadiums and 37 non-work-related deaths.

Those figures were reiterated by a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy on Tuesday.

“Separate quotes regarding figures refer to national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities,” the spokesperson said, in a statement.

The Guardian reported last year that 6500 South Asian migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (AP)
The Guardian, meanwhile, reported last year that 6500 South Asian migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.

The report did not connect all 6500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.

Last year Al Thawadi — the man in charge of leading Qatar’s preparations — disputed that figure and told CNN’s Becky Anderson that The Guardian’s figure was a “sensational headline” which was misleading and that the report lacked context.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers account for 90 per cent of Qatar’s total workforce. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File) (AP)

Meanwhile, a Qatari government official told CNN last month: “The 6500 figure takes the number of all foreign worker deaths in the country over a 10-year period and attributes it to the World Cup”.

“This is not true and neglects all other causes of death including illness, old age and traffic accidents,” they said.

“It also fails to recognise that only 20 per cent of foreign workers in Qatar are employed on construction sites.”

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers account for 90 per cent of Qatar’s total workforce.

Since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010, many migrant workers have faced delayed or unpaid wages, forced labour, long hours in hot weather, employer intimidation and an inability to leave their jobs because of the country’s sponsorship system, human rights organisations have found.

With the city skyline in the background, migrant workers rest at the Doha port, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, November 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (AP)

Morgan questioned if the health and safety standards were good enough at the beginning of the project.

“I think overall the need for labor reform itself dictates that, yes, improvements have to happen,” Al-Thawadi responded.

“Just so we’re clear, this was something that was recognised before we bid. The improvements that have happened aren’t because of the World Cup. These are improvements that we knew that we had to do because of our own values.

He said the World Cup “served as a vehicle, as an accelerator, as a catalyst because of the spotlight which we recognised early”.

Among the changes is the significant alteration of the Kafala system, which gives companies and private citizens control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File) (AP)

“It caused a lot of these initiatives not only in terms of improvement in the legislation, but in the enforcement of it as well,” Al-Thawadi said.

“And that’s where today we got to a position where our most ardent of critics consider us today to be a benchmark in the region.”

Futuristic city built for Qatar World Cup appears looks desolate

Among the changes is the significant alteration of the Kafala system, which gives companies and private citizens control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status.

Ahead of the World Cup, which began earlier this month and concludes on December 18, Qatar erected seven new stadiums, built new hotels, and expanded the country’s airport, rail networks and highways.

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