Wednesday 24 February 2021


Sorry. This is another gloomy post. I've just read a Guardian story about all the workers who have died in Qatar during the construction of the stadiums there ahead of next year's World Cup (that's the Football - ie soccer - World Cup, fellow Kiwis).

According to the paper, 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangla Desh and Sri Lanka have died in the ten years since Qatar won hosting rights. And that's not counting all the other "guest workers" from Kenya and the Philippines, who are also numerous on the building sites in this small, very rich but, outside of Doha, kind of bleak country. There are probably many, many more unrecorded.

I was there in 2019, courtesy of Qatar Airways who were wanting to push their new route to Auckland, and we got the full publicity barrage. It was impressive, seeing the plans for the stadiums (stadia), even the one that looks like a vulva, and what they'd already finished. The whole city was bristling with cranes and scaffolding, and it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of what they were preparing for so enthusiastically.

Even then, though, there was some quiet muttering, and I looked at the air-conditioned glass bus shelters on the streets, and wondered how on earth men, even from hot countries, could cope with working physically, in dangerous conditions, in such stifling heat. We did see them, of course, on the building sites and around the streets, in their helmets and boiler suits and they didn't look cheerful. It's not surprising that, as well as deaths from falls and other causes, and the vast majority of fatalities due to what Qatar blithely categorises as "natural causes" - ie heat - a fair chunk of the figures are down to suicide. Poor things. It's the final (actually, the first) insult, that they had to pay to go there to work.

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