Independent senator Gerard Craughwell has praised Qatar after he travelled to Doha as part of a European Parliament delegation. The country’s Human Rights Committee, a government-funded institution, hosted him for five days in the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel where room prices range from €279 to €1,300 per night.
Craughwell’s trip came just weeks before Qatar is due to host the 2022 World Cup. FIFA’s decision to grant the Middle Eastern country rights to the tournament has been widely criticised because of the human rights situation within the nation, including its treatment of LGBTQ+ people.
In order to accommodate the competition, the country has recruited tens of thousands of migrant workers from places like India, Pakistan and Nepal, and multiple reports state that as many as 6,500 of these people have allegedly died in the decade since the Gulf nation started preparing for the event.
Seven new sports stadiums, a metro system, an airport and roughly 100 new hotels are being built because of the World Cup, and various human rights organisations have raised concerns about the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar. In August, Qatari authorities detained and deported a range of immigrants who protested over unpaid wages.
Despite this, the Irish senator has said that the country has “come forward leaps and bounds” in terms of workers’ welfare. He told reporters that the statistics surrounding the death toll were “not true”, and that the Qatari government had provided him with more accurate figures suggesting that just 50 people had lost their lives, while 5,060 had suffered life-changing injuries.
Craughwell said he was “concerned” by the statistics, but added: “I believe publishing historical data is a bad approach; 5,000-odd people have life-changing or life-ending injuries is not something to be scoffed at in any society but let’s not make it worse than it is purely to sell a newspaper.”
During his stay, the senator as part of the EU delegation met with Qatari Labour Minister Dr Ali bin Samikh Al Marri and the secretary-general of the National Human Rights Committee Sultan bin Hassan Al Jamali. He also visited one of the World Cup venues, as well as a male-only labour city where 60,000 migrant workers are staying.
Speaking on the National Human Rights Committee, Craughwell confirmed that the group is funded by the Qatari government, and for this reason, he went outside the guided tours to speak to “ordinary people”.
“I did not want to be used for PR. I took every step I could to confirm everything,” he said.
“The word back in the UK and Ireland is that hundreds of workers are dying because of bad practice, and that’s not true,” Craughwell continued.
“The improvements that have taken place since 2017 are significant.”
Responding to the senator’s comments, Fiona Crowley of Amnesty International Ireland said: “While it is correct that Qatar has introduced a series of labour reforms that aim to improve workers’ rights, the lack of enforcement means that serious abuses persist.
“Thousands of workers are still being subjected to labour abuse and exploitation with little hope of remedy.”
Concerns surrounding the treatment of the queer community in Qatar have also been raised ahead of the World Cup, as homosexuality remains illegal and even punishable by death in the nation. Although officials have ensured that LGBTQ+ people will not be discriminated against or prosecuted should they travel to the tournament, FIFA’s decision to host the tournament in a country with such discriminatory laws and human rights issues has demonstrated a lack of support for vulnerable groups.
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