Skip to main content

As World Cup Looms, the Families Football Left Behind

FIFA, Qatar Owe Families of Workers Who Died Building the Games

Ram Pukar Sahani shares his father, Ganga Sahani’s pictures. © 2022 Private

Ram Pukar Sahani’s father died in Qatar earlier this year, but his memory remains very much alive. Ram and his family are a reminder of the many left behind after their loved ones died while working in Qatar.

Human Rights Watch met the family in southern Nepal this month when interviewing families of migrant workers who died in Qatar, many of whom made the FIFA 2022 World Cup, which starts in November, possible.

Ram said he first learned of his father’s death from a friend. In disbelief, he called his father in Qatar. His father’s friend answered, confirming the devastating news. “I dropped the phone, and I passed out,” he recalled tearfully.

According to Ram, his father died at a work site in his uniform, but was ineligible for compensation because his death certificate read, “acute heart failure due to natural death.” According to Qatar’s labor law, deaths attributed to “natural causes” without being adequately investigated are not considered work-related and as such are not compensated. Like families of many other young, healthy workers who died in Qatar of “natural causes,” Ram couldn’t make sense of it. “How will someone so healthy and strong die? I did not believe the news.”

Many migrants have been cheated of their wages and end-of-service benefits while building the World Cup infrastructure, and families of workers who died have often not received compensation from the employer or the Qatari government.

Compensation schemes for migrant workers and their families do exist, including from workers’ home countries and some from the Qatari government, but significant gaps mean not all families receive compensation. For those who do, it’s often not enough.

FIFA, the Qatari government, and his employer may have forgotten Ram’s father – and thousands of others like him – but his memory lives on with Ram. “This is my father. Look at him,” Ram says, as he scrolls through the photo gallery in his father’s phone; important memorabilia he managed to recover from Qatar. “When I face some difficulty, I miss my father very much and scroll through his phone for comfort.”

Families of the deceased should not have to wait any longer. Ahead of the World Cup kickoff, FIFA and the Qatari government should commit to providing compensation for all the families left behind.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.