Exclusive: Thousands of workers evicted in Qatar’s capital ahead of World Cup

  • The buildings housing the Asian and African workers are empty
  • Some residents gave two hours’ notice to leave home
  • The World Cup has put Qatar’s treatment of workers in the spotlight

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has razed the homes of thousands of foreign workers in the same areas in the heart of the capital Doha where soccer fans will stay during the World Cup, forcing workers from their homes. they told Reuters.

They said more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing the mostly Asian and African workers to seek whatever accommodation they could find – including sleeping on the pavement outside. in one of their first homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the November 20 start of the World Cup, which has drawn intense international scrutiny of Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its rules. which restricts the public.

In one building that residents say is home to 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, officials told people around 8pm on Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave.

Municipal officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forced everyone out and locked the doors of the building, they said. Some men could not return in time to collect their belongings.

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“We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to spend the second night with about 10 other men, some of them without clothes in the heat. of the fall and humidity of the Gulf Arab country.

He, along with several other workers who spoke to Reuters, declined to give their names or personal details for fear of retaliation from authorities or employers.

Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small refrigerator into the back of a truck. They said they found a room in Sumaysimah, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evictions were not related to the World Cup and were made “in accordance with the ongoing extensive and long-term plans to reorganize the Doha area.”

“Since then, everything has been kept in a safe and proper place,” the official said, adding that requests to leave “could have been made with proper notice.”

World football’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar World Cup organizers have referred questions to the government.

“DEliberate GHETTO-ISATION”

About 85% of Qatar’s three million residents are foreign workers. Most of the evicted work as drivers, day laborers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own housing – unlike those who work for large construction firms who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people. thousands.

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One worker said the layoffs targeted single men, while foreign workers with families were not affected.

A Reuters reporter saw more than a dozen buildings where residents said people had been evicted. Some buildings were without electricity.

Most were in neighborhoods where the government has leased buildings for accommodation for World Cup fans. The organizers’ website lists properties in Al Mansoura and other districts where apartments are advertised for between $240 and $426 per night.

A Qatari official said municipal authorities are still using a 2010 Qatari law banning “labor camps within family settlements” – a term that covers much of central Doha – and giving them the power to remove the people.

Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find shelters among the planned workers’ accommodation in and around the industrial area on the southwestern outskirts of Doha or in the suburbs. , a long way from their jobs.

The deportations “maintain the good and wealthy face of Qatar without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible,” said Vani Saraswathi, Director of Projects at Migrant-Rights.org, a campaign of foreign workers in the Middle East.

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“This is deliberate ghetto-isation at the best of times. But eviction without any notice is incomprehensible stupidity.”

Some workers said they had been fired several times.

Another said he was forced to move to Al Mansoura at the end of September, but was transferred 11 days later without prior notice, along with 400 others. He said: “In one minute, we had to move.

Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh, said he had lived in the same place for 14 years until Wednesday, when the municipality told him he had 48 hours to leave the villa he shared with 38 other people. .

He said that the workers who built infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup were excluded as the competition approached.

“Who built the stadiums? Who built the roads? Who built everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they’re making us all go out.”

(This story has been updated to clarify that the evacuated apartments are in the same areas of Doha where soccer fans will be staying during the World Cup, in a leading park.)

It reports on Andrew Mills; Written by Dominic Evans; Edited by Ken Ferris

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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