Exclusive: Thousands of workers evicted in Qatar’s capital ahead of World Cup

  • Asian and African workers’ quarters were abandoned
  • Some residents give two hours to leave home
  • The World Cup has put Qatar in charge of staff

DOHA, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Qatar has evicted thousands of foreign workers from housing blocks in the same areas in the center of the capital Doha where football players live during the World Cup, workers evicted from their homes told Reuters.

They said more than one shelter had been evacuated and closed by authorities, forcing many Asian and African workers to find a shelter they could – including sleeping on the steps outside one of their former homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the start of the World Cup on Nov. 20.

In a house that residents say has 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, authorities told people around 8 pm on Wednesday that they had just two hours to leave.

City officials returned around 10.30 pm, let everyone out and locked the doors of the building, they said. Some men never make it back in time to collect their wealth.

“We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to sleep outside for a second night with about 10 other men, some of they don’t wear the heat and humidity of the Arab Gulf state.

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He, along with most of the workers who spoke to Reuters, refused to give their names or personal details for fear of retaliation from authorities or employers.

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

A Qatari government official said the expulsions were not related to the World Cup and were planned “as part of comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganize the Doha area.”

“All have been returned to a safe and proper residence,” the official said, adding that requests to leave “will be made with proper notice.”

World football’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar’s World Cup organizers referred questions to the government.

“STOP GHETTO-ISATION”

About 85% of Qatar’s three million people are foreign workers. Most of the displaced people work as drivers, day laborers or contractors with companies but are responsible for their own livelihood – unlike those who work for large construction companies that house tens of thousands of people in camps.

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One worker said that single men were being deported, although foreign workers with families were not affected.

A Reuters reporter saw more than one apartment building where residents said people had been evicted. Electricity was cut off in some houses.

Most are in communities where the government has rented buildings to accommodate World Cup hosts. The organizer’s website lists apartments in Al Mansoura and other areas where apartments are advertised for between $240 and $426 per night.

The Qatari official said authorities had enforced a 2010 Qatari law banning “labor camps in family settlements” – a designation that covers much of central Doha – and giving them the power to move people.

Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find places to live among the workers’ housing built around the business district in southwest Doha or in the outlying cities, where long commutes from their jobs.

The deportation “maintains the beautiful facade and wealth of Qatar without promoting the easy way to do it,” said Vani Saraswathi, Director of Projects at Migrant-Rights.org, promoting foreign workers in the Middle East.

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“This is ghetto-making at its best.

Some employees say they have witnessed serial evictions.

Another said he was forced to move houses in Al Mansoura at the end of September, only to be moved 11 days later without prior notice, along with about 400 others. “One minute, we have to move,” he said.

Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh, said he had lived in the neighborhood for 14 years until Wednesday, when the municipality told him he had 48 hours to vacate his villa. together with 38 other people.

He said that the workers who built the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup are being transferred as the tournament approaches.

“Who built the stadiums? Who built the roads? Who built everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People are like us.

(This story has been reposted to explain the allocation of housing in the same areas in Doha where soccer players will live during the World Cup, in the lead paragraph.)

Reported by Andrew Mills; Written by Dominic Evans; Edited by Ken Ferris

Our principles: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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