Qatar’s World Cup boss has finally admitted that at least “400-500” migrant workers died while building infrastructure for the tournament.
Hassan Al-Thawadi made his comments on Piers Morgan’s ‘uncensored’ talk show, as the competition progresses to the end of the group stage.
Asked what the “honest realistic total” of the number of migrant workers who died building the brand new stadiums, Al-Thawadi said “The estimate is around 400.”
“Between 400 and 500 I don’t have the exact number, that’s something that’s being discussed.”
This comes amid speculation about the number of deaths over the course of the building of stadiums in Qatar, with some estimates that 6,500 workers died.
Originally, Qatar claimed officially just a handful had passed away.
During the interview, Hassan Al-Thawadi said there had been three work-related deaths and 37 non work-related deaths of migrant workers specific to the construction of World Cup stadiums.
Of the 400-500 related deaths, the Qatar government contacted City A.M. and clarified that they refer to construction project over the last 12 years including the building of hotels, bridges, roads and other infrastructure which do not relate to World Cup projects.
In a watershed moment for the tiny Gulf kingdom, the secretary general of the supreme committee for delivery and legacy in Qatar, Al-Thawadi, said deaths were in the hundreds.
Asked by Morgan if 400 deaths is a price “too big to pay” Al-Thawadi responded that “”One death is too many”.
Insisting that “every year the health and safety standards on the site are improving. At least on our sites the World Cup sites, most definitely to the extent you have trade unions” including from German and Switzerland, who have “commended” the work on sites.
Asked whether he accepted that standards were not high enough when work began, he said “overall, the need for labour reform in itself dictates that yes, improvements have to happen”.
“And just so we’re clear, this was something that was recognised before we bid. The improvements are not because of the World Cup. These are improvements we knew we had to do because of our own values”.
“The World Cup served as a vehicle, as an accelerator, as a catalyst. Because of the spotlight which we recognised was going to be shed, it caused a lot of these initiatives not only in terms of improvement of the legislation – but of enforcement as well”.
“Today, we got to a position where our most ardent of critics consider us to be a benchmark in the region”.