UK football club demands probe into migrant worker deaths in Qatar

Published On: December 12, 2019 09:36 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Dec 12: Liverpool, a professional football club in Liverpool, UK, has supported calls by human rights groups for thorough investigations into the deaths of migrant workers including Nepalis in Qatar, before the club flies to the Gulf country next week to play in FIFA’s Club World Cup, according to a report published by The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday.

According to the report, the Liverpool Chief Executive Peter Moore also sought assurances from the Qatar “supreme committee”, which is organizing the tournament and the 2022 World Cup, about the progress of investigations into the deaths of two men who had been working on the construction of football stadiums. They include a Nepali migrant worker Rupchandra Rumba and a British construction worker Zac Cox. 

Moore set out Liverpool’s position in a letter to Nicholas McGeehan and James Lynch, directors of the Fair/Square human rights organization, who asked him in November to make a public statement of concern about workers’ rights and deaths in Qatar. They highlighted the risks of the intense heat and humidity for people employed on the vast construction projects in the Gulf, citing medical research published in July into deaths of Nepalese workers in Qatar, which concluded that “the increased cardiovascular mortality during hot periods most likely is due to severe heat stress”.

“McGeehan and Lynch specifically highlighted the death in June of Rupchandra Rumba, 24, a Nepali who died in his lodgings during his period of employment as a scaffolder at the Education City stadium, which was originally designated for Liverpool to play their matches,” The Guardian report said.

Rumba’s Qatari death certificate, as is common in the country, attributed his death to a generalized “acute cardio-respiratory failure due to natural causes”, which McGeehan and Lynch described as “not a certifiable cause of death, meaning that Rumpchandra’s death remains unexplained”, according to the report. 

McGeehan, formerly Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch, and Lynch, previously a deputy director at Amnesty, have called for full investigations into the deaths in Qatar and the effects of heat. They cited the climate data and conclusions of medical experts, reported by the Guardian in October, that hundreds of migrant workers are dying in Qatar due to heat stress. 

Moore said in his reply that Liverpool had “sought background detail assurances” from the supreme committee about the status of the investigation into Rumba’s death and the progress of compensation for Rumba’s wife, Nirmala Pakrin, and their six-year-old son, Niraj. 

“Like any responsible organisation, we support your assertion that any and all unexplained deaths should be investigated thoroughly and that bereaved families should receive the justice they deserve,” the Guardian has quoted Moore as writing in his reply to McGeehan and Lynch. “Furthermore we also believe that employees should be treated with fairness and respect, which is why we adhere to our own anti-slavery policy and why we are committed to paying the real living wage, among various measures of this kind. These are the standards that we set for ourselves and by which we would hope to be judged given they fall within our own remits and responsibilities.”

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