In your article on plans to boycott this week’s Scotland-Qatar football match (“SFA defends Qatar match amid human rights row”, 2 June) you report “revelations” that 1,200 migrant workers have died building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
These often-reported figures have absolutely no basis in fact. They are based on an article in the Washington Post on 27 May (“The human toll of Fifa’s corruption”), which claimed that 4,000 workers are likely to die while working on World Cup sites, and that some 1,200 had already lost their lives.
In preparing its report, it appears that the Post simply took the total annual mortality figures for Indian and Nepalese migrants working in Qatar and multiplied those numbers by the years remaining between now and the 2022 World Cup – a calculation which assumes that the death of every migrant worker in Qatar is work-related.
In fact, after almost 5 million man-hours of work, there have been no fatal industrial accidents on World Cup projects. Not one.
Qatar has more than a million migrant workers. The Global Burden of Disease study, published in The Lancet in 2012, suggests that more than 400 deaths might be expected annually from cardiovascular disease alone among Qatar’s migrant population, even had they remained in their home countries.
It is unfortunate that any worker should die overseas, but it is wrong to distort statistics to suggest that all deaths in such a large population are the result of workplace conditions.
The graphic that accompanies the Washington Post article was especially misleading. An equivalent graphic would suggest that every migrant worker in the UK who died between 2005 and 2012 – whatever their job and whatever the cause – was killed in the construction of the 2012 London Olympics.
To be clear: there have been no fatalities on World Cup projects in Qatar.
Government Communications Office