DOHA – Qatar has emptied apartment complexes housing thousands of foreign workers in the center of its capital Doha, affected workers told Reuters.
They said a dozen buildings had been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing mostly Asian and African workers to seek shelter where they could, including sleeping on the pavement outside their former homes. said it was done.
The move comes four weeks before the start of the global football tournament on Nov. 20, which has come under intense international scrutiny over Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws. .
At about 8 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities told people they had only two hours to vacate a building in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, said to house 1,200 people.
City officials reportedly returned around 10:30 pm, evicted everyone, and locked the doors of the building. Some men didn’t make it in time to collect their belongings.
A man who spoke to Reuters the next day was preparing to spend a second night with about 10 other men, some of them in the Gulf Arab autumn’s heat and humidity. I was shirtless inside.
He and most of the other workers who spoke to Reuters declined to give their names or personal details out of fear of retaliation from authorities or employers.
Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small refrigerator into the back seat of a pickup truck. They said they found a room in Sumaisima, about 40 kilometers north of Doha.
A Qatari government official said the eviction had nothing to do with the World Cup and was planned “in line with the ongoing comprehensive long-term plan to reorganize the Doha region”. .
“All were then re-housed in safe and suitable accommodation,” the official said, adding that the request to leave “would have been made with proper notice.”
FIFA, the governing body of world football, did not respond to a request for comment, and Qatar’s World Cup organizers directed inquiries to the government.
About 85% of Qatar’s three million population are foreign workers. Many of those displaced work as drivers, day labourers, or have contracts with companies, but are responsible for their own housing. This is different from people working for big construction companies who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people.
One worker said the eviction was aimed at single men, but foreign workers with families were not affected.
A Reuters reporter identified more than a dozen buildings that residents said had been forced to vacate. Electricity was cut off in some buildings.
Most lived in areas where the government rented buildings for accommodation for World Cup fans. The organizer’s website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other districts, with apartments advertised starting at US$240 (SGD339) per night and he US$426.
Qatari officials say local government officials are enforcing a 2010 Qatar law banning “worker camps within family settlements” that covers much of central Doha, giving them the power to evict people. said there is.
Some of the displaced workers said they wanted to find a place to live in the industrial areas on the southwestern outskirts of Doha or in purpose-built workers’ accommodation in suburban cities.
The eviction “preserves Qatar’s glorious and wealthy façade without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible,” says Migrant, who campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East. said Vani Saraswathi, Project Director of Rights.org.
“This is intentional ghettoization at its best. But evictions with little notice are incomprehensibly inhumane.”
Some workers said they experienced successive evictions.
One person said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura at the end of September, moving with about 400 people 11 days later without prior notice.
“In a minute we had to move,” he said.
Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh who has lived in the same area for 14 years, was told Wednesday by the municipality that it would take him 48 hours to leave the villa he shared with 38 people.
He said the workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup are being pushed aside as the tournament approaches.
“Who built the stadiums? Who built the roads? Who built everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. I’m letting you.” – Reuters