- Buildings housing Asian and African workers are vacant
- Some residents gave two hours notice to leave their homes
- World Cup puts Qatar’s treatment of workers in the spotlight
DOHA, October 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has cleared apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the same areas in central Doha where visiting football fans will be. 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 mostly Asian and African workers to seek possible shelter – including spreading beds on the sidewalks. outside one of their old houses.
The move comes less than four weeks before the global soccer tournament kicks off on November 20.
At a building that residents said was home to 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, authorities told people at around 8 p.m. Wednesday that they had only two hours to leave.
City officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forcing everyone out and locking the doors to the building, they said. Some of the men were unable to return in time to pack up their belongings.
“We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to sleep a second night with about 10 other men, some of them topless in the heat. and humid autumn of the Gulf Arab country.
He and most of the other workers who spoke to Reuters declined to give their names or personal details for fear of retribution by authorities or employers.
Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small refrigerator into the back of a pickup truck. They say they found a room in Sumaysimah, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Doha.
A Qatari government official said the expulsions were unrelated to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize parts of Doha.”
“All have been reused in safe and appropriate accommodations,” the official said, adding that requests to move “will be processed with proper notice.”
World football’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar’s World Cup organizers directed requests to the government.
About 85% of Qatar’s three million people are foreign workers. Many of those fired are drivers, day workers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own accommodation – unlike those who work for construction companies. large builders live in camps of tens of thousands of people.
One worker said the evictions 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 from their homes. Some buildings were without power.
Most are in neighborhoods where the government leases buildings to house World Cup fans. The organizers’ website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other districts, where apartments are advertised for between $240 and $426 a night.
The Qatari official said the city government had implemented a 2010 Qatar law banning “worker camps in family residential areas” – a designation that includes most of central Doha – and giving them the right to move people out. outside.
Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find accommodation amid purpose-built worker hostels in and around industrial zones in the southwestern suburbs of Doha or in remote cities, where they have to commute for a long time.
Vani Saraswathi, director of projects at Migrant-Rights.org, an organization that advocates for foreign workers in the Middle East, said the deportations “retain Qatar’s glamor and riches without not openly acknowledge the source of cheap labor”.
“This is intentional slums at the best of times. But evictions with little notice are inhumane beyond comprehension.”
Some workers said they have experienced mass evictions.
One said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura in late September, only to be moved 11 days later without notice, along with about 400 others. “In a minute, we had 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 the workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup were being pushed aside as the tournament drew near.
“Who made the stadiums? Who made the roads? Who made everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they’re all forcing us to go out. .”
(This story has been re-filtered to make it clear that the apartment blocks being vacant are located in the same areas of Doha where visiting football fans will be staying during the World Cup, in the paragraph leader.)
Reporting by Andrew Mills; Written by Dominic Evans; Edited by Ken Ferris
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