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

  • Buildings with Asian and African workers are empty
  • Some residents gave two hours notice to leave home
  • The World Cup has put Qatar’s treatment of workers in the spotlight

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has ladies apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the same areas in the center of the capital Doha where visiting soccer fans will stay during the World Cup, workers who were evicted from their homes told Reuters. .

They said more than a dozen buildings were evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing the mainly Asian and African workers to seek what shelter they could – including bedding on the pavement outside one of their first homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the Nov. 20 start of the global soccer tournament that has drawn intense international scrutiny of Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws.

In one building, which residents said housed 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, authorities told people at about 8 p.m. Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave.

Municipal officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forced everyone out and locked the doors to the building, they said. Some people could not return in time to collect their possessions.

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“We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to spend a second night with about 10 other people, some of them shirtless, in the Gulf Arab autumn heat and humidity. State.

He, and most other workers who spoke to Reuters, declined to give their names or personal details because they feared reprisals from the authorities or employers.

Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small fridge into the back of a pickup truck. They said they found a room in Sumaisima, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evictions were not related to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize areas of Doha.”

“All have since been rehoused in safe and appropriate accommodation,” the official said, adding that requests to waive “would be handled with proper notice.”

World soccer’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar’s World Cup organizers directed inquiries to the government.

“deliberate ghettoization”

Around 85% of Qatar’s three million population are foreign workers. Many of the evicted work as drivers, day laborers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own accommodation – unlike those who work for major construction companies who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people.

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One worker said the evictions targeted single people, while foreign workers with families were not affected.

A Reuters reporter saw more than a dozen buildings where residents said they had been evicted. Some buildings had their electricity turned off.

Most were in neighborhoods where the government had rented buildings for World Cup fan accommodation. The organizers’ website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other districts where flats are advertised for between $240 and $426 per night.

The Qatari official said municipal authorities passed a 2010 Qatar law that bans “worker camps in family residential areas” – a designation that includes most of central Doha – and gives them the power to evict people.

Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find places to live among purpose-built workers accommodation in and around the industrial zone on Doha’s southwestern outskirts or in outlying towns, a long commute from their jobs.

The evictions “keep Qatar’s glamorous and wealthy facade in place without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible,” said Vani Saraswathi, director of projects at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East.

“This is deliberate ghettoization at the best of times, but evictions with barely any notice are inhumane beyond comprehension.”

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Some workers said they experienced serial evictions.

One said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura at the end of September, only to be moved on 11 days later without prior notice, along with some 400 others. “In one minute, we have to move,” he said.

Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh, said he had lived in the same neighborhood 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 workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup are being pushed away when the tournament comes around.

“Who made the stadiums? Who made the roads? Who made everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they’re making us all go out.”

(This story has been refiled to clarify that apartment blocks that have been emptied are in the same areas in Doha where visiting soccer fans will stay during the World Cup, in the main paragraph.)

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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