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

  • The buildings housing Asian and African workers were emptied
  • Some residents were given two hours’ notice to evacuate
  • The World Cup has put the spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of workers

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has cleared 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 said. them to Reuters.

They said more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and sealed off by authorities, forcing the mostly Asian and African workers to seek what shelter they could – including sleeping on the pavement outside one of their former homes.

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

In a building that residents said housed 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura neighborhood, authorities told people around 8pm on Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave.

Municipal officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forced everyone out and locked the building’s doors, they said. Some men had not been able to return in time to retrieve 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 of them shirtless in the Gulf Arab state’s autumn heat and humidity.

He and most of the other workers who spoke to Reuters declined to give their names or personal details for fear of reprisals from authorities or employers.

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

A Qatari government official said the evictions were unrelated to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize the Doha areas”.

“All have since been resettled in safe and suitable accommodation,” the official said, adding that requests to vacate “would have been carried out with due notice”.

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

“PURPOSED GHETTOSIS”

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

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One worker said the deportations 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 has been cut off in some buildings.

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

The Qatari official said municipal authorities have implemented a 2010 Qatari law that bans “worker camps within family residential areas” – a designation that includes much of central Doha – and gives them the power to move people out.

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

The deportations “keep Qatar’s glitzy, rich facade in place without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible,” said Vani Saraswathi, Projects Director at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for workers. foreign in the Middle East.

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“This is deliberate ghettoization at the best of times. But evictions with almost no notice are inhumane beyond comprehension.”

Some workers said they had experienced serial evictions.

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

Mohammed, a Bangladeshi driver, 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 workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup were being pushed aside as the tournament approached.

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

(This story has been redacted to clarify that the apartment blocks being vacated are in the same areas in Doha where visiting soccer fans will stay during the World Cup, in the lead paragraph.)

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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