“Qatar needs to better investigate death of migrant workers”

Qatar government rarely investigates the cause of death of deceased migrant workers, which have often been killed by extreme heat or unsafe working conditions. Thats what Amnesty International writes in a new report. Because the underlying causes have not been investigated, Qatari authorities ignore warning signals that, if addressed, can save lives, says Director Dagmar Oudshoorn of Amnesty Netherlands.

According to the Human Rights Organization, Qatar routinely issues death certificates for migrant workers and are referred to as cardiac arrest or natural causes as a cause of death without proper investigation. These vague terms dont say anything about underlying causes. This deprives next of kin the opportunity to find out what happened to their loved ones and cannot receive compensation from Qatar authorities, says Amnesty.

For the In the Prime of their Lives study, Amnesty analysed the government data of thousands of immigrants killed and eighteen death certificates. The organization also spoke to medical experts and relatives of six migrant workers who died. The men from Bangladesh and Nepal were all between 30 and 40 when they died.

Healthy before departure

One of them is the Nepali Yam Bahadur Rana, who, as a security guard at the airport, had to sit in the sun for a long time and died in his work last year. His widow Bhumisara Rana: I feel he had a heart attack due to the drought and heat, because I never heard he was ill.

Other next of kin say that the immigrants who died were healthy before leaving for Qatar.

After the death, a fee of several thousand euros was sometimes paid, including by the government of Bangladesh. But, according to the family members, that whole amount was to pay off the debts that the migrant workers had made to come to Qatar.

In the new report, Amnesty points out that Qatar temperatures reach 40 degrees and that migrant workers often make long working days and do physical hard work.

Qatar authorities have taken action in recent years. It has been forbidden to work in the middle of the day in the hottest months. This ban was extended in May and employees were given the right to stop working if they are concerned about heat stress.

Too non-committal

In the Amnesty study, David Wegman, health and safety expert in the construction sector, says that while the new law is an improvement, the rules are still too non-binding.

Amnesty calls on Qatar authorities to tighten these laws even further. The organization also calls for better causes of death research and wider compensation for next of kin. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and it can not only afford to do much better, its also compulsory to do so, says Amnesty Director Oudshoorn.