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Qatar faces further backlash after 67 more Nepalese migrant workers died between July and November

Qatar faces new shocking figures as deaths of Nepalese migrant workers ahead of the 2022 World Cup are at its highest level for at least three years.

Two years out from the World Cup final, Sportsmail can reveal 67 Nepalese migrants died in Qatar between July 16 and November 15 since the coronavirus pandemic.

It puts the deaths on track to reach 160 by mid-July 2021, as the human toll among the Gulf state’s second-largest migrant community has increased despite promises of reform in response to a global backlash over worker fatalities.

Nepal’s Foreign Employment Board (FEB) also exclusively revealed the previous year — July 16, 2019 to July 15, 2020 — saw 104 deaths. The FEB’s figures exclude casualties from ‘road accidents’, and are largely derived from death certificates issued in Qatar.

Nick McGeehan, director at human rights organisation Fair/Square, branded the increase in fatalities as ‘inexcusable’.

He told Sportsmail: ‘Qatar has a dreadful record on worker deaths and its refusal to put proper protection in place is inexcusable. It has known about these problems for a long time. The failure to act properly on deaths calls into serious question its commitment to labour reforms, which look good on paper but have not yet been tested.’

He also stated Nepalese migrant workers have played a ‘central role’ in preparing the country for the tournament and that World Cup-related work extends beyond those working on the stadiums.

‘To say World Cup workers are just at the stadiums is not true,’ he said. ‘The vast amount of construction in Qatar in the past eight years has been directly or indirectly World Cup construction. The entire country has been overhauled to prepare for the World Cup.

‘There are hundreds of thousands of workers who are just there to completely transform the country all geared towards 2022.’

To compound matters, dozens of families had to wait months to collect loved ones in body bags from Kathmandu Airport as repatriation flights were halted for three months from March 22 due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Around 24 families allowed their loved ones to be cremated in Qatar as corpses began to deteriorate because of the delay, according to Nepal’s Foreign Employment Board spokesperson Din Bandhu Subedi.

In some cases, bereaved families are left in the dark as to the circumstances around their loved one’s death.

67 more Nepalese migrant workers died in the period between July 16 and November 15. Pictured is Nirmala Pakrin, widowed after the death of scaffolder husband Rupchandra Rumba

Rupchandra Rumba was a scaffolder working at the Education City Stadium, a brand new 40,000 seat arena built for the World Cup. The 24-year-old had taken out a loan to fly to Qatar in desperation to clear his debt and provide his eight-year-old son Niraj with a good education.

Rumba died from a heart attack in his sleep after just two months there. His unexplained death was attributed to ‘acute cardio respiratory failure due to natural causes’.

His 27-year-old widow Nirmala Pakrin claimed that since an initial phone call from the company to tell her Rupchandra had died, there has not been any sort of inquest into his death.

She told Sportsmail: ‘The company representatives had called me to inform me about his death. I haven’t heard from them after that. It’s obviously very painful to know so little about the details of his death. I now feel like we will never know what actually happened.’

McGeehan, formerly a researcher in the Gulf, claimed that the number of families left in the dark ‘run into the thousands’.

He added: ‘I think it is insulting beyond belief that a young man would die in circumstances like that; an unexplained death building stadiums for the most lucrative and high-profile tournament in the world and the family is offered £1300.

‘They are not offered an investigation into how he died, whether there was negligence involved, none of that — it’s a pay-off.

‘It’s utterly horrendous. The body comes home, and they are often told they have died from natural causes. The grief must be unimaginable — it’s callous.

‘Unquestionably there are thousands of families (left in the dark). Unexplained (migrant) deaths in Qatar run into the thousands. That doesn’t mean all the deaths are because of heat or negligence, but it does mean there is no answer to how they died.’

Pakrin has also yet to receive a ‘fair’ amount of compensation for her husband’s death and is desperately fighting for more.

‘The company says they have already paid what my husband was supposed to get,’ she said. ‘So far, the company has only released his due wage and gave around 200,000 Nepali rupees (£1,270) a few months after his death.

Besides that, my husband’s co-workers also helped me with 68,000 Nepali rupees (£434).

‘They keep insisting that I have already got what I am supposed to get. But 200,000 Nepali rupees is nothing compared to what families of other workers have received. The company says I was getting less because my husband was without insurance. I have still not given up hopes.’

The way Pakrin found out about her loss is still raw. She said Rupchandra was healthy before he left Nepal.

‘His friends called me first. They said that he had a heart attack in his sleep and had to be rushed to the hospital — he died on the way,’ she explained. ‘I couldn’t believe it when I heard it at first. He had talked with us on the phone just a few hours earlier. I asked myself, “How can someone suddenly die like that?”‘

The brand new Al Rayyan Stadium was shown off for the first time for the Qatar Cup final

Four of the stadiums for the 2022 competition have already been completed, with the fourth — the Al Rayyan Stadium — inaugurated on Saturday night at the prestigious Qatar Cup final.

Qatar’s Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino were spotted watching on inside the glitzy stadium.

The International Trades Union Confederation predicts 4,000 worker fatalities in Qatar before the tournament begins in two years.

In response, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) said: ‘Rupchandra Rumba’s employers reported to the SC that they transferred the final salary of 3,357 Qatari riyals (£712) to his family via the Nepali Embassy. The company offered compensation of 8,000 Qatari riyals (£1,625) to Mr Rumba’s family.

‘The family also received a payment of 1.4million Nepali rupees (£9,400) through the Nepali Foreign Employment Act and 700,000 Nepali rupees (£4,376) through the Nepali Government Workers’ Welfare Fund.

‘The SC ensures our contractors comply with our Workers’ Welfare Standards, which are aligned with Qatar’s labour law.

‘The SC investigates all work-related fatalities and non-work-related deaths to identify contributory factors and establish how they may have been prevented.

‘The SC is, and has been transparent with regard to all work-related-fatalities or non-work-related deaths on our projects, releasing details of every incident in our annual reports.’

Culled from Dailymail

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