EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of workers have been displaced in Qatar’s capital ahead of the World Cup

  • Buildings housing Asian and African workers were emptied
  • Some residents were asked to leave the house two hours in advance
  • The World Cup has put the spotlight on the treatment of workers in Qatar

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has vacated apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the same areas in central Doha where visiting football fans will stay during the World Cup, workers evicted from their homes said were, told Reuters.

They said more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing the mainly Asian and African workers to seek as much shelter as possible – including shelter on the sidewalk outside one of their former homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the start of the November 20 global football tournament, which has prompted intense international scrutiny of Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws.

At a building that residents said housed 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, authorities told people around 8pm on Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave the building.

Community officials returned around 10:30 p.m., forced everyone out and locked the doors of the building, they said. Some men had not been able to return in time to collect their belongings.

“We have nowhere to go,” a man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to spend a second night with about 10 other men, some of them shirtless in the autumn heat and humidity of the Gulf Arab state.

He and most other workers who spoke to Reuters declined to give their names or personal information for fear of reprisal from authorities or employers.

Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and small refrigerator into the back of a pickup truck. They said they found a room in Sumaysima, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evictions were unrelated to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize areas of Doha”.

“All have since been placed in safe and adequate accommodation,” the official said, adding that eviction requests “would have been carried out with reasonable notice.”

World football’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment, and Qatar World Cup organizers have made inquiries to the government.


Around 85% of Qatar’s three million inhabitants are foreign workers. Many of the displaced work as drivers, day laborers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own housing – unlike workers in large construction companies who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people.

One worker said the evictions targeted single men, while foreign workers with families were unaffected.

A Reuters reporter saw more than a dozen buildings where residents said people had been displaced. In some buildings the electricity was switched off.

Most were in neighborhoods where the government has leased buildings to house World Cup supporters. The organizer’s website lists buildings in Al Mansoura and other districts where apartments are available for $240 to $426 a night.

The Qatari official said local authorities had enforced a 2010 Qatari law banning “worker camps in family housing areas” – a designation that encompasses most of central Doha – and giving them the power to relocate people.

Some of the displaced workers said they hoped to find housing a long way from their jobs in purpose-built workers’ housing in and around the industrial area on the south-west outskirts of Doha or in outlying towns.

The evictions “maintain Qatar’s shiny and prosperous facade without publicly acknowledging the cheap labor that makes it possible,” said Vani Saraswathi, project manager at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for migrant workers in the Middle East.

“This is deliberate ghettoization at best.

Some workers said they witnessed serial evictions.

One said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura at the end of September, only to be relocated eleven days later without notice along with about 400 others. “We had to move in a minute,” he said.

Mohammed, a Bangladeshi driver, said he lived in the same neighborhood for 14 years until the community told him on Wednesday he had 48 hours to leave the villa he shared with 38 other people.

He said workers who have been building 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 did everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. people like us.

Reporting by Andrew Mills; writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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