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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, has castigated Qatari authorities for endangering the lives of migrant workers by exposing them to the deadly coronavirus.
Amnesty’s strong rebuke comes after reports emerged that parts of Qatar’s Industrial Area in Doha — home to a large number of migrant workers living in accommodation units — have been put into lockdown after hundreds of construction workers became infected with COVID-19.
Qatar, a tiny country, has so far reported 460 cases of the coronavirus infection, the highest number among the six Gulf countries, and majority of those infected are expatriates working in the industrial area in Doha.
"The majority of (coronavirus) cases in Qatar to date have been located in the Industrial Area," the Government Communication Office (GCO) admitted in a statement in response to a Reuters' query.
“As the world struggles to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, migrant workers trapped in camps such as those in Qatar are at particular risk of exposure to the virus, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Global Issues, lamented.
“Qatar’s labor accommodation camps are notoriously overcrowded, and a lack of adequate water and sanitation means that workers are inevitably less able to protect themselves from the virus. Workers’ proximity to one another in cramped camps also does not allow for any type of social distancing.
“The Qatari government must ensure that human rights remain central to all attempts at prevention and containment of the COVID-19 virus, and also that all people have access to healthcare, including preventive care and treatment for everyone affected, without discrimination,” Cockburn added.
During the course of its research in Qatar, Amnesty visited labor camps in Doha’s Industrial Area where large groups of migrant workers were housed in very poor accommodation, sleeping in bunk-beds in overcrowded rooms, with poor sanitation and sometimes with no electricity or running water.
Since 2010, when Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s migrant worker population has expanded very rapidly. Coming from some of the world’s poorest countries, and working in sectors including construction, hospitality and domestic service, migrant workers now make up 95 percent of the country’s labor force, the Amnesty report said.
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