58 percent of Qatar’s population are migrant workers living in ‘labor camps’

by WorldTribune Staff, June 7, 2016

The huge migrant workforce in Qatar has swelled to 1.4 million, making up 58 percent of the country’s population.

The overwhelming majority of foreign workers – 1.34 million – are male and live in what the government calls “labor camps”, according to census figures released on June 5 by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS).

Migrant workers (not interviewed by the Guardian) watch television in a labor camp in Qatar. /Guardian/Pete Pattisson
Migrant workers watch television in a labor camp in Qatar. /Guardian/Pete Pattisson

At the time of the census, the official population of Qatar was 2.4 million.

Migrant laborers who work on Qatar’s numerous infrastructure projects have long complained of the conditions they work and live in.

Last week, 11 people were killed and 12 injured when a fire ripped through a camp housing laborers working on a tourism project in the southwest of the country.

Qatar, which will host the World Cup soccer tournament in 2022, has been the subject of numerous complaints by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, who have decried the “squalid and cramped accommodation” for the country’s massive migrant workforce.

Qatar has attempted to ease the criticism by constructing workers’ housing complexes, including the $825 million (U.S.) “Labor City” south of the capital Doha. The complex, which can house up to 70,000 foreign workers, features shops, cinemas and a cricket stadium.

The gas-rich nation’s population has soared over the past three decades as it has imported a huge migrant workforce to develop its infrastructure. In 1986, just 373,000 people lived in the emirate.

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