Football: Qatar rejects 'groundless' worker deaths claim

Doha - Qatar dismissed as "groundless" Monday a claim that as many as 7,000 people would die working on projects for the 2022 World Cup, bullishly defending its preparations for football's biggest tournament.

Doha said that the allegation - made by the International Trade Union Confederation last week - was a "falsehood" and represented "a deliberate distortion of the facts".

It said no workers had died on World Cup projects so far, and added there was no reason to believe thousands would lose their lives in the run-up to the event.

"The International Trade Union Confederation's claim... that 'by the time the 2022 World Cup kicks off in seven years time, based on new data, more than 7,000 workers could have died in Qatar' is groundless and represents a deliberate distortion of the facts," the government said.

"To date, after more than 14 million hours worked there have been no fatalities on World Cup project sites - not one." The Gulf state said in a statement that it was non-sensical to claim that the deaths of all workers were due to workplace accidents or conditions.

"If ITUC were to apply the same logic to an evaluation of worker fatalities in the run-up to the London Olympic Games, every death of a non-British worker between 2006 and 2012 would have been attributed to the London Olympics," it said.

The issue of workers' rights and specifically the death rate among labourers has long dogged Qatar's controversial and successful big to host the tournament.

Doha does not release death toll figures but it has been revealed in the past that more than 900 workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh died in Qatar in 2012 and 2103, though no causes of death were given.

The ITUC, which has been one of Qatar's fiercest critics, said on Friday that the "real fatality rate" of workers in Qatar was more than 1,000 per year.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC's general secretary, said the figure was calculated "by analysing Qatar's own statistics and health reports over the past three years".

The response from Qatar added that the Gulf state has introduced several labour reforms recently and that migrant workers have sent home up to $14 billion in the past five years.

Qatar added that it welcomed "thoughtful criticism" but said it should be "based on fact".

Monday's statement from Qatar is the third in a week from an increasingly strident Doha defending its position on the World Cup against critics.

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