Nepal envoy recalled after Qatar 'open jail' remarks

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal recalled its ambassador in Qatar on Thursday after she called the Gulf state an "open jail" for Nepalis who suffer labor abuses, and amid outrage about labor conditions and deaths as the emirate prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. Maya Kumari Sharma's remarks were made about six months ago in an interview but only attracted attention this week after they were reprinted in a report by Britain's Guardian newspaper that documented the deaths of dozens of Nepali workers in Qatar over the summer. A cabinet meeting decided to sack Sharma after Qatar complained about her comments, officials said. Sharma was appointed last year by the Maoist-led government. "The government has decided to recall the ambassador as her comments and behavior went out of the diplomatic norms," Bimal Gautam, an aide to the chairman of interim cabinet Khilraj Regmi, told Reuters. Millions of Nepalis are employed in Malaysia, South Korea and the Middle East, including Qatar. Migrant remittances account for about a fifth of Nepal's gross domestic product. The Guardian report, published on Wednesday, said thousands of Nepalese workers were enduring labor abuses as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement that government authorities were investigating the allegations, which have shone an unfavorable spotlight on its preparations for the world's biggest sporting event after the summer Olympic Games. Qatar was awarded the World Cup three years ago in a surprise decision. The tiny Gulf state is now in a race against time to complete an extensive amount of infrastructure work. (Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)