Qatar has launched a work safety investigation into the death of a worker, Qatari officials said on Thursday, after reports that a Filipino man died at a training site during the soccer World Cup, marked by controversy over treatment of migrant workers.
Nasser Al Khater, Chief Executive of the 2022 World Cup in Doha, confirmed to Reuters that a worker died, without providing specifics, and stated that “death is a natural part of life” while offering condolences to his family.
Online sports publication The Athletic reported on Wednesday that a Filipino man contracted to fix lights in a car park at the Sealine Resort, the training site of the Saudi national team, died after he “slipped off a ramp while walking alongside the vehicle and fell headfirst against concrete”.
Citing multiple unnamed sources, it said the accident occurred during the World Cup, but did not specify when.
The resort did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ query.
“If the investigation concludes that safety protocols were not followed, the company will be subject to legal action and severe financial penalties,” another Qatar government official said in a statement when contacted by Reuters.
“The rate of work-related accidents has consistently declined in Qatar since strict health and safety standards were introduced and enforcement has been stepped up,” the official said.
Qatar had come under increasingly scrutiny by human rights groups since being awarded World Cup hosting rights in 2010 over its treatment of migrant workers, who account for the majority of the Gulf Arab state’s population.
The tournament, the first to be held in the Middle East where other countries have also faced criticism over migrant workers rights, has been mired in controversy with some soccer stars and European official criticising Qatar’s human rights record, including on labour, LGBT+ and women rights.
Qatar’s World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said in a statement that it was not involved in the Qatari investigation as “the deceased (was) working as a contractor, not under the remit of the SC”.
The number of work-related deaths in Qatar is in dispute.
Britain’s Guardian reported last year that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many of them working on World Cup projects – had died in Qatar since it won the right to stage the event, according to the paper’s calculations from official records.
In response, Qatar said the number of deaths was proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce, and included many non-manual workers, adding that every life lost was a tragedy. The SC said that three work-related deaths and 37 non-work related deaths have occurred on World Cup related projects.
“Death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep,” Khater said, voicing disappointment at journalists’ questions about The Athletic report.
“We’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?” he said.