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Qatar has allegedly evicted thousands of migrant workers to empty apartment blocks where they were staying in the centre of capital Doha, apparently to make way for soccer fans arriving for the Fifa World Cup.
In one residential block in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, some 1,200 foreign workers were given just two hours of notice to vacate the apartments on Wednesday, workers told Reuters.
Municipal officials returned in the night at around 10.30pm local time and forced the people out, locking the doors. Those who were not able to return on time were not able to collect their belongings.
It comes as Qatar, which is hosting a global soccer tournament slated to commence from 20 November, has drawn intense international attention over its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
Workers said more than a dozen buildings have been evacuated and locked down by authorities, leaving hundreds of Asian and African workers to scramble for shelter.
Some resorted to bedding down on the pavement outside one of their former homes, according to the report.
According to a similar AFP report, some 12 buildings were evacuated late Wednesday ahead of the 20 November tournament.
A Qatari government official denied to Reuters that the evictions were related to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to re-organise areas of Doha”.
“All have since been rehoused in safe and appropriate accommodation,” the official said, adding that requests to vacate “would have been conducted with proper notice”.
The Independent has requested Fifa for a comment.
Immigrant workers from India, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, and African nations, including Kenya and Uganda, make up 85 per cent of Qatar’s 2.8 million population.
Many of those evicted work as drivers, day labourers and other contractual jobs with companies which do not take responsibility for their housing – unlike some major construction firms.
Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh who gave just one name, said he has been living in one neighbourhood for 14 years until Wednesday, when he was given 48 hours to leave the villa he shared with 38 other people.
He accused the authorities of pushing away the people who helped build the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup.
“Who made the stadiums? Who made the roads? Who made everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they are making us all go outside.”
Most people were evicted in neighbourhoods which have been rented by the government to house World Cup fans. According to the organisers’ website listing, flats have been advertised for between $240 and $426 per night in neighbourhoods such as Al Mansoura.
Calls for a boycott of the World Cup have been growing in French cities in recent days as human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the ill-treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, claiming many have also died there since 2010 when it won the right to host the event.
In a 2021 report, Human Rights Watch said hundreds of thousands of migrants are facing “punitive and illegal wage deductions”, and faced “months of unpaid wages for long hours of gruelling work”.
In February 2021, the Guardian said that some 6,500 workers from India, Pakistan and other south Asian countries died in Qatar since 2010.