A camp for migrant laborers caught fire on Thursday, claiming the lives of eleven migrants and injuring 18. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire. This is serious for Qatar as it is undergoing construction efforts for the upcoming 2022 World Cup.

Labor camps in Qatar appear to be of great concern, as there are no measures that protect workers against abuse from their employers. There have been attempts at establishing binding reforms that provide better conditions for migrant workers, but there are still millions of migrants surviving in worsening conditions, not only in Qatar.

Fire in Qatar kills 11 people
On Thursday, a camp for migrant laborers caught fire killing 11 and injuring 18 people. Credit: Doha News

The interior ministry announced that civil defense forces were able to contain the fire and stop it from spreading. The victims’ identities or nationalities not revealed.

Why are there labor camps in 2016?

Reportedly, Qatar is aiming to build at least seven cities to house around 260,000 workers. One was already inaugurated.

This is not the first fire related to labor camps, as another occurred early this year in Al-Sheehaniya near Qatar’s capital of Doha, claiming the life of an Indian worker.

Currently, Qatar has the highest rate of income per capita in the world, but the country has been severely criticized on the topic of human rights. According to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, a committee will be selected to monitor Qatar’s labor efforts closely and to ensure a correct treatment of its migrant workers. Qatar is the first Arab country to host the World Cup of Football and its administration reportedly supported FIFA’s monitoring proposal.

According to some FIFA representatives, Qatar’s position regarding human-rights was not sufficiently taken into account when considering it to be the next location for the World Cup. Others claimed that FIFA treated fairly human-rights violators due to its many relations with countries that do not follow these international guidelines.

“FIFA should set explicit human rights requirements of local organizing committees in bidding documents for tournaments and provide guidance on them,” John Ruggie, a Harvard professor, stated. 

The conditions of migrant workers

Qatar authorities claim that they are improving the conditions of thousands of migrant workers. BBC Middle East reporter Leana Hosea visited several work camps and confirmed that they were all overcrowded and lacked essential commodities. Qatari officials argue that they are aiming towards building more housing and recreational facilities for migrant workers supported by the private sector.

Besides the deaths caused by accidents, hundreds of South-Asian migrants have died in Qatari labor camps due to heart disease, to which Indian and Qatari officials claim that it is a common endeavor. When interviewed, many workers expressed their fear of being repressed and their regret of going to Qatar. They claim that their employers do not provide safety equipment, sufficient salaries nor proper accommodations.

Migrant labor crises are present all over the world, not only in Qatar. Solutions are yet to be found as it is not possible to quickly accommodate every single migrant, even if an apparently wealthy country such as Qatar may appear able to do so.

Source: NY Times