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

  • Buildings emptied for Asian and African workers
  • Some residents leave their homes with two hours’ notice
  • World Cup puts Qatar’s treatment of workers into focus

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has emptied the apartment buildings of thousands of foreign workers in central Doha, the capital, where football fans visiting during the World Cup will stay, workers who have been driven out of their homes told Reuters. apartment.

Authorities have evacuated and closed more than a dozen buildings, they said, forcing mostly Asian and African workers to seek shelter they could find – including making beds on sidewalks outside their former homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the Nov. 20 opening of the global soccer championship, which has drawn international scrutiny over Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws.

At around 8pm on Wednesday, authorities told people they had only two hours to leave in a building in Doha’s Al Mansoura district that residents said was home to 1,200 people.

They said city officials returned around 10:30 p.m., kicked everyone out and locked the building’s doors. Some failed to return in time to retrieve their belongings.

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“We have nowhere to go,” a man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to sleep outside for a second night with about 10 other men, some shirtless in the Gulf Arab country’s autumn heat and humidity.

He and most of the other workers interviewed by 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 pickup truck. They said they found a room in Sumaysimah, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the relocations had nothing to do with the World Cup and were designed “in accordance with an ongoing comprehensive and long-term plan to reorganize the Doha region”.

“All have since been relocated to safe and appropriate accommodation,” the official said, adding that evacuation requests “will be made with due notice.”

World football governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment, and Qatar World Cup organizers have made inquiries to the government.

“Deliberate Ghettoization”

About 85% of Qatar’s population of 3 million are foreign workers. Many of those evicted work as drivers, temporary workers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own accommodation — unlike those who work for major construction companies, who live in camps with tens of thousands of people.

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One worker said the deportations 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 lost power.

Most are in communities where the government rents buildings for World Cup fans. The organizers’ website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other areas with apartments advertised for between $240 and $426 a night.

The Qatari official said the municipality had been enforcing a 2010 Qatari law that banned “worker camps in family housing estates” — a name that covers much of central Doha — and gave them the The power of people to move out.

Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find accommodation in purpose-built worker dormitories in and around industrial areas on the outskirts of Doha or in remote cities far from where they worked.

Vani Saraswathi, program director at Migrant-Rights.org, which runs campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East, said the deportations “leave Qatar’s glossy and wealthy facade intact without publicly acknowledging that it made it possible. cheap labor.”

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“At best, it’s deliberate ghettoization. But evictions with little notice are inhumane and incomprehensible.”

Some workers said they experienced serial evictions.

One said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura at the end of September, but moved with about 400 other people 11 days later without prior notice. “Within a minute, we had to move,” he said.

Mohammad, a driver from Bangladesh, said he had lived in the same community 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 as the World Cup approached, the workers who built Qatar’s infrastructure for the World Cup were pushed aside.

“Who built the stadium? Who built the roads? Who made everything? Bangladeshis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they let us all out.”

Reporting by Andrew Mills; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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