Qatar World Cup chief said 'death is a natural part of life' after a migrant worker died while fixing lights for a soccer training base

Nasser al-Khater, chief executive of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 organisation, gives a press conference at Al-Janoub Stadium in the capital Doha on September 25, 2019.
Nasser al-Khater, chief executive of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 organisation, gives a press conference at Al-Janoub Stadium in the capital Doha on September 25, 2019.GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images
  • Qatar World Cup boss Nasser Al Khater has come under fire for his remarks toward a worker's death.

  • Al Khater said "death is a natural part of life" in a Thursday interview with Reuters.

  • The worker was contracted to fix lights at a training site and died in a vehicle accident, per The Athletic.

Qatar's World Cup CEO is facing criticism from human rights groups after he said "death is a natural part of life" when addressing the death of a migrant worker hired for repairs at a tournament facility.

"Death is a natural part of life, whether it's at work, whether it's in your sleep. Of course, a worker died, our condolences go to his family," Nasser Al Khater told Reuters on Thursday.

Al Khater took issue with the reporter's question about the worker, a Filipino national who had been contracted to fix lights at a training site for the Saudi Arabian soccer team, as identified on Wednesday by The Athletic.

He died in a forklift truck accident after slipping off a ramp and hitting his head on a concrete floor, per the outlet.

Al Khater said it was "strange" that Reuters asked him about the worker's death at the start of the interview.

"We're in the middle of a World Cup," he said. "And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something that you want to talk about now?"

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"Look, workers' deaths has been a big subject during the World Cup," he said, per the BBC. "Everything that has been said and everything that has been reflected about workers' deaths has been absolutely false."

FIFA on Thursday confirmed the death, saying it is "deeply saddened by this tragedy," but did not provide further details on his passing.

Qatar's World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told Reuters the deceased worker was a contractor and "not under the remit of the SC."

Human rights groups criticized Al Khater's comments

Human rights organizations slammed Al Khater's comments on Thursday.

"The FIFA and Qatari authorities' responses exemplify their entities' longstanding disregard for migrant workers' lives, repeated obfuscation of key facts, and the failure to take responsibility for migrant workers' safety," wrote Human Rights Watch representatives on the organization's website.

They accused Qatar of often attributing migrant workers' deaths to "natural causes" or "cardiac arrest" without investigating them properly, and said these fatalities were preventable in the first place.

Ella Knight, a migrants' labor rights researcher for Amnesty International, told the BBC: "We and others have been calling on the Qatari authorities to conduct such investigations on workers' deaths for years to no avail."

"Instead, they continue to simply write off vast numbers of deaths as being due to 'natural causes' despite the clear health risks associated with working in extreme temperatures," Knight added, per the outlet.

This year's World Cup tournament and Qatar continue to face controversies over migrant workers' welfare and LGBTQ+ rights.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended Qatar and its human rights record in November, saying the West is being hypocritical with its criticism of Qatar.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of the Qatari SC, said 400 to 500 workers died during preparations for the tournament, following a report by The Guardian that estimated 6,500 workers died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded.

In comparison, eight people died during preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, per Reuters, while 17 workers died in construction for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, per Human Rights Watch.

Al Khater and the Qatari SC did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

Read the original article on Insider