Kathmandu (AFP) – Nearly 200 Nepali migrant workers died in Qatar last year, many of them from heart failure, officials said Monday, figures that highlight the grim plight of labourers in the Gulf nation.
Tens of thousands of impoverished Nepalis head every year to Qatar, where a construction boom is gathering pace as it prepares to host the 2022 football World Cup.
The Nepal embassy in Doha said it registered 191 deaths last year compared with 169 the year before, with a foreign ministry official describing many of the deaths as “unnatural”.
“In the year 2013, a total of 191 Nepali migrant workers died in Qatar,” Harikanta Paudel, a senior embassy official, told AFP by telephone.
“The highest number of deaths occurred in July when 32 workers died,” Paudel said.
Qatar is under mounting pressure over poor conditions for migrant labourers, particularly during the blisteringly hot summer, in the gas-rich nation’s booming construction industry.
A Kathmandu-based foreign ministry official told AFP that a third of the deaths recorded were due to “unnatural” heart failure.
“Young and healthy men in their twenties and thirties have died… it is unnatural,” said official Subhanga Parajuli.
“Cardiac arrest is followed by traffic accidents as another main cause of death. The third cause of death is injuries during work,” Parajuli said.
An Amnesty International report released last November said migrant workers in Qatar endured a series of abuses including “non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation”.
The rights group said its researchers overheard one construction firm manager use the term “animals” to describe migrant workers, while a labourer told the watchdog that “Nepalis are treated like cattle”.
Qatari authorities last October said allegations of abuse of labourers working on World Cup facilities were exaggerated but insisted they took such claims seriously.
More than one million Nepali migrant workers toil in the Gulf region and Southeast Asia. Qatar alone hosts around 400,000 Nepalis as part of its two-million strong migrant workforce.