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

  • Buildings that housed Asian and African workers were evacuated
  • Some residents were given a two-hour warning to leave
  • The World Cup has put Qatar’s treatment of workers in the spotlight

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has vacated apartment blocks where thousands of foreign workers are staying in the same areas in the center of the capital Doha, workers evicted from their homes told Reuters.

More than a dozen buildings have been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing mostly Asian and African workers to seek shelter – including sleeping on the pavement outside one of their former homes, they said.

The move comes less than four weeks before the start of the World Cup on November 20, which has drawn intense international scrutiny over Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws.

In one of the buildings, which residents said was home to 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, officials told people at around 8pm on Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave.

They said municipal officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forced everyone out and locked the building’s doors. Some of the men had not been able to return in time to collect their belongings.

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

He and many other workers who spoke to Reuters declined to be named or identified for fear of reprisals from officials or employers.

Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small refrigerator into the back of a van. They said they found a room in Semisimeh, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evictions had nothing to do with the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize areas of Doha.”

“Everyone has since been accommodated in safe and suitable places,” the official said, adding that requests to evacuate “will be done with proper notification.”

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment, and Qatar World Cup organizers sent requests to the government.

“deliberate ghettoization”

About 85% of the three million population of Qatar are foreign workers. Many of those who have been laid off work as drivers, day laborers or contract workers for companies, but are responsible for their own accommodation – unlike those working for major construction companies who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people. .

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One worker said the layoffs 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. Electricity was cut off in some buildings.

Most of them were in neighborhoods where the government has rented buildings to accommodate World Cup fans. The organizers’ website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other areas where apartments are advertised for between $240 and $426 per night.

The Qatari official said city officials were enforcing a 2010 Qatari law banning “labor camps in family residential areas” — a designation that covers most of central Doha — and giving them the power to relocate people. gives out

Some of the laid-off workers said they hoped to find a place to live among targeted worker settlements in and around the industrial zone in Doha’s southwestern suburbs or in outlying towns.

Vani Saraswati, projects director at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East, said the deportations “maintain Qatar’s shiny, wealthy image without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible.”

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This is intentional neighborhoodism at its best.

Some workers said they experienced serial layoffs.

One said he was forced to relocate in al-Mansoura at the end of September, only to be moved 11 days later without notice, along with about 400 others. “In a minute, we had to move,” he said.

Mohammad, 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 the workers who built Qatar’s infrastructure to host the World Cup were laid off as the tournament approached.

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

(This story is repeated in the main paragraph to clarify that the apartment blocks being evacuated are in the same areas of Doha where soccer fans will be staying during the World Cup.)

Reporting by Andrew Mills; By Dominic Evans; Edited by Ken Ferris

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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