Qatari authorities have evicted hundreds of migrant workers from buildings in central Doha, casting a new shadow over the countdown to the World Cup, residents and workers said Saturday.
Municipal workers and security guards moved into about 12 buildings late on Wednesday to clear and lock them, according to local residents, less than four weeks before the tournament that kicks off on November 20.
The government said the buildings were “uninhabitable”, proper notice was given, and that alternative “safe and appropriate accommodation” had been found for all evictees.
The affected area, largely around Al-Mansoura, has been massively redeveloped in recent years and some World Cup fans will stay in apartments in that district, where dozens of mechanical diggers are parked in the streets.
In the early hours of Saturday, Yunus, a Bangladeshi driver, slept on the back of his flat-bed truck on a street in Al Mansoura, three nights after being forced out of one block.
“The first night it was chaos and there was not enough room for everyone to go to other places,” he said.
In any case, “this truck is my life and I will not leave it until I have somewhere where I can park it” near the new accommodation, he added.
The South Asian manager of a 24-hour store in Al Mansoura, who told AFP he saw evictions from two buildings, said most of the workers paid no rent and had no leases.
Migrants — dominated by an influx from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, the Philippines and African nations including Kenya and Uganda — make up more than 80 percent of Qatar‘s 2.8 million population.
Qatar has faced intense scrutiny over the treatment of foreign labourers who built most of the shiny new stadiums and transport infrastructure for the World Cup.
The energy-rich state has been criticised over deaths, injuries and unpaid wages.
International unions say there has been a drastic improvement in conditions in recent years and Qatar has highlighted its reforms, but rights groups say more must be done.