Qatar World Cup chief says ‘death is a part of life’ after reported worker death | World Cup 2022

The chief executive of the Qatar World Cup has been condemned by human rights groups for saying “death is a natural part of life – whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep”, when asked about a migrant worker’s death at the tournament.

On Wednesday it was reported that a Filipino national contracted to fix lights in a car park at the Sealine Resort, the training site for the Saudi Arabia national team, had died after he “slipped off a ramp while walking alongside a vehicle and fell headfirst against concrete”.

It is the latest incident in a tournament where controversies over migrant workers’, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights have raged. However, when asked about the subject, Nasser al-Khater questioned why journalists were bringing up the matter.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

Photograph: Caspar Benson

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“We’re in the middle of a World Cup,” he said. “And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now? A worker died, our condolences to his family but it is strange that is something you want to focus on as your first question.”

He added: “Look, workers’ deaths have been a big subject during the World Cup. Everything that has been said and everything that has been reflected about workers’ deaths has been absolutely false.

“We’re a bit disappointed that the journalists have been exacerbating this false narrative. And honestly, I think a lot of the journalists have to ask themselves and reflect on why they’ve been trying to bang on about the subject for so long.”

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 because “the deceased [was] working as a contractor, not under the remit of the SC”. The matter is being investigated by the Qatari authorities.

Nasser’s comments were immediately criticized by Human Rights Watch. “The Qatari official’s comment displays a callous disregard for the migrant worker who has died,” its spokesperson Rothna Begum said. “His statement that deaths happen and that it’s natural when it does, ignores the truth that many migrant worker deaths were preventable.”

That message was echoed by Ella Knight, Amnesty International’s migrants’ labor rights researcher, who said Khater was mistaken when he said every fatality was investigated. “This is simply not true,” she said. “We and others have been calling on the Qatari authorities to conduct such investigations on workers’ deaths for years to no avail.

“Instead, they continue to simply write off vast numbers of deaths as being due to ‘natural causes’ despite the clear health risks associated with working in extreme temperatures.”

The number of work-related deaths in Qatar is in dispute. Last year the Guardian reported that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many of them likely to have been working on World Cup preparations – had died in Qatar since it won the right to stage the event.

The Supreme Committee has said three work-related deaths and 37 non-work-related deaths have occurred on World Cup-related projects.

In a recent TV interview Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the SC, estimated that the number of migrant workers who had died on World Cup-related projects was “between 400 and 500.”

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