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Qatar not investigating or reporting all work-linked deaths: ILO

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Qatar is not adequately investigating and reporting worker deaths including unexplained fatalities among seemingly healthy laborers, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Friday.

The Gulf state, where foreigners make up the majority of the population, has faced scrutiny over worker conditions in the run-up to hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup next November.

Data collected at government-run trauma centers and ambulances in 2020 showed 50 workers died and more than 500 were severely injured, the ILO said.

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“Most were suffered by migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, mainly in the construction industry. Falls from height and road traffic accidents were the top causes of severe injuries, followed by falling objects on worksites,” the report said.

The ILO said numbers could be higher as authorities don’t classify all work-related deaths as such, including unexplained deaths among healthy workers and heat-related fatalities.

That data gap should be addressed, with better injury investigations, Max Tunon, head of the ILO’s Qatar office, told Reuters.

Qatar’s labor ministry said in a statement that “no other country has come so far on labor reform in such a short amount of time, but we acknowledge that there is more work to be done”. It said it was reviewing the ILO recommendations.

In August, Amnesty International criticized Qatar for failing to investigate thousands of unexplained deaths.

A widely-reported Guardian newspaper analysis in February concluded 6,500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010. However, Tunon cautioned that Qatar worker death data is frequently reported without necessary nuance.

“The [Guardian’s] number includes all deaths in the migrant population ... without differentiation between migrant workers and the general migrant population, let alone fatalities that resulted from occupational injuries,” the ILO said.

Qatar has introduced several labor reforms in recent years, including tougher rules to protect workers from heat and raising the minimum wage.

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