By Satish Kanady
DOHA: The motives of sections of Western media reporting on the alleged exploitation and fatalities of migrant Nepalese workers in Qatar have come under serious question as a respected human rights organisation in Nepal has dismissed a recent report in a British newspaper as completely baseless.
The Guardian on Sunday had reported the Kathmandu-based Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC) would reveal this week that more than 400 Nepalese migrant works have died on Qatar’s building sites as it prepares to host the World Cup.
“We were surprised to read the Guardian’s reference to our organisiation. PNCC is not working on any report and we do not have any such data with us. The newspaper’s claim that PNCC will release a report next week is totally wrong,” the PNCC spokesperson and General Secretary Som Prasad Lamichane told The Peninsula over phone from Nepal yesterday.
Som said PNCC will be writing to the daily to register its strong protest. Interestingly, the Guardian report doesn’t quote any PNCC official.
“An equal number of fatalities is happening across the Middle East, including in other GCC countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We do not know why The Guardian is focusing only on Qatar,” said PNCC Vice-Chairperson Kul Prasad Karki.
Som said the Nepalese migrant deaths are reported from across the Middle East since 2008. “Of course, it’s a very serious issue for us. But we do not know why the global media is focusing only on Qatar and always tend to connect the causalities to the Fifa-related projects,” Kaul said.
Many believe that these reports are biased. “Since 2010, Qatar has been following the British HSE standards. Compared to many other countries in the Middle East, the fatalities are much lower in Qatar,” George Macleod, a construction expert with over 30 years experience in the US and Australia, told The Peninsula.
“It seems the western media is sensationalising the issue and often blows it out of proportion. In Qatar’s case, I would say that the interested parties are extrapolating data and exploding it to the media,” George said.
Picking up the Guardian’s report, some news portals have given a twist to the story.
Some of them interpreted that all the 400 deaths claimed by the Guardian were related to the Fifa-related projects. Some portals even said the entire causalities occurred at the construction sites of the World Cup stadiums, forgetting the fact that Fifa stadiums are just in their design stages.
The Nepal embassy sources yesterday told The Peninsula that the mission does not have any data to prove that the causalities had happened at the Fifa-related project sites. However, the update of deceased Nepalese labourers in Qatar is worrying. A total of 194 Nepalese labourers died in Qatar in 2013. Over 70 percent of the fatalities were due to cardiac arrests. Reacting to The Guardian’s reports on Nepalese migrant force in Qatar, Nepal’s popular online magazine LA.LIT said: “The Guardian’s facts and statistics have failed to comprehend the core issue. The heart of the problem is the notorious nexus between manpower companies and agents.”