Qataris and FIFA brush off another worker death accusing world media of a ‘false narrative’

December 9 – Dismissing the death of a migrant worker from the Philippines at Saudi Arabia’s training resort in Qatar, World Cup boss Nasser Al Khater has said: “Death is a natural part of life, whether at work, whether in your sleep.”

His remarks came after The Athletic reported that a Filipino worker died after he slipped off a ramp while walking alongside a forklift and hit his head on concrete. The migrant worker was contracted by a company to fix lights in a car park at the Sealine Resort, the training site of the Saudi national team during the World Cup.

Reuters then reported that Qatar is investigating the death, but Al Khater was not pleased when asked about the issue.

“We’re in the middle of a World Cup and we’re having a successful World Cup and this is something you want to talk about right now?,” he said.

“Death is a natural part of life, whether it is at work, whether it is in your sleep. A worker died, our condolences to his family but it is strange that is something you want to focus on as your first question.”

Al Khater went on the attack, once again accusing the media of spreading fake news, an aggressive argument that Qatar and local organisers began rolling out in the months leading up to the tournament.

“Look, workers’ deaths has been a big subject during the World Cup,” said Al Khater. “Everything that has been said and everything that has been reflected about workers’ deaths has been absolutely false.”

“This theme, this negativity around the World Cup has been something that we’ve been faced with.

“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.”

Perhaps Al Khater and World Cup organisers have not read the room.

After years of downplaying the number of migrant worker deaths, organisers reviewed the figure from the three work-related deaths and 37 non-work related deaths to 400-500 deaths. Last year the Guardian reported that 6,500 non-Qataris had died in the emirate since the construction work for the World Cup began.

The number remains very disputed because of a lack of transparency from Qatari authorities over the issue and the cause of death on death certificates. However, on Thursday, Fatma Samoura proved to be another tone-deaf official.

“We’ve already elaborated long interventions on what we are doing with Qatar,” said FIFA’s general secretary. “I don’t think that’s appropriate when people are coming here to learn things, that we are talking about things that we’ve already discussed months and months and months and time and time ago.”

Human Rights Watch described the response from the Qatari organisers and FIFA as “callous”, saying: The FIFA and Qatari authorities’ responses exemplify their entities’ longstanding disregard for migrant workers’ lives, repeated obfuscation of key facts, and the failure to take responsibility for migrant workers’ safety. The Qatari Supreme Committee was quick to deny the death was under its jurisdiction, even though at the time of his death, Alex (the name of the Filipino worker) was repairing FIFA infrastructure.”

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