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

  • The houses of Asian and African workers were empty
  • Some residents have been warned to leave their homes for two hours
  • The World Cup has drawn attention to Qatar’s treatment of workers.

DOHA, October 28, 2011 (FBC) Qatar has evacuated thousands of foreign workers’ homes in the center of the capital Doha where visiting soccer fans are staying for the World Cup, evicted workers told Reuters.

More than 12 buildings have been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing mainly Asian and African workers to seek shelter, including sleeping on pavements outside their former homes, he said.

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

In one building in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, which residents said housed 1,200 people, officials said they had just two hours to evacuate people at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Municipal officials said they returned around 10:30 p.m., kicked everyone out and locked the building’s doors. Some men did not return in time to collect their belongings.

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“We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters as he prepared to sleep for a second night the next day with 10 others, some wearing shirts in the Gulf Arab country’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 pickup truck. They said they found a room in Sumaysimah, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evacuation was unrelated to the World Cup and was designed “in line with the ongoing comprehensive and long-term plan to reorganize the areas of Doha”.

“All have since been returned safely and properly accommodated,” the official said.

World soccer governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment, and Qatar World Cup organizers have submitted a request to the government.

“Intentional ghetto-ization.”

85% of Qatar’s three million people are foreign workers. Many of those evicted work as drivers, day laborers or contract workers with companies but are responsible for their own housing – unlike those who work for major construction companies, where tens of thousands of people live in camps.

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One worker said the deportations were aimed at single men, but foreign workers with families had not faced any problems.

A Reuters reporter saw more than a dozen buildings where residents had been evacuated. Some buildings were without electricity.

Most of them were in neighborhoods where the government had rented accommodation buildings for World Cup fans. The developers’ website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other districts with apartments for $240 to $426 a night.

Municipal officials of the Qatari authority They are enforcing a 2010 Qatari law that bans “labor camps in family residential areas” — a designation that includes most of central Doha — and gives them the power to evict people.

Some of the displaced workers said they hoped to find places to live in purpose-built workers’ shelters in the industrial zone on Doha’s southwest outskirts or outlying towns.

Vani Saraswati, director of projects at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East, said Qatar’s deportation would “maintain Qatar’s glitzy and rich facade”.

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“This is deliberate ghetto-ization at the best of times. But eviction without warning is inhumane beyond comprehension.”

He said some workers had suffered a series of evictions.

One was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura in late September, 11 days later without prior notice, along with 400 others. “We had to move in a minute,” he said.

Mohammad 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.

Qatar says laborers who built infrastructure to host the World Cup are being sidelined as the tournament approaches.

“Who built the stadiums? Who built the roads? Who built everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they’re forcing us all out.”

(This story was reprinted in the lead article on apartments being rented out in Doha where soccer fans will stay during the World Cup.)

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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