With the World Cup approaching, families have left football behind

Ram Bukar Sahani’s father passed away in Qatar earlier this year, but his memory is still very much alive. Ram and his family are a reminder of the many who are left behind after their loved ones died while working in Qatar.

Human Rights Watch interviewed the family in southern Nepal this month when interviewing families of migrant workers who died in Qatar, many of whom made the 2022 soccer World Cup, which kicks off in November, possible.

Ram said he first learned of his father’s death from a friend. In disbelief, he called his father in Qatar. His father’s friend replied confirming the devastating news. “I left the phone, I lost consciousness,” he said, crying.

According to Ram, his father died on the job site in his uniform, but he was not eligible for compensation because his death certificate states “acute heart failure due to natural death”. According to Qatar Labor Law, deaths attributed to “natural causes” without adequate investigation are not considered work related and therefore not compensated. Like the families of many healthy young workers who died in Qatar of “natural causes”, Ram could not fathom. “How would a healthy and strong person die? I couldn’t believe the news.”

Many migrants were deceived about their wages and severance pay while building infrastructure for the World Cup, and families of deceased workers often did not receive compensation from their employer or the Qatari government.

Compensation schemes exist for migrant workers and their families, including from their countries of origin and some from the Qatari government, but large gaps mean that not all families receive compensation. For those who do, that is often not enough.

FIFA, the Qatari government and his employer may have forgotten Ram’s father – and thousands of others like him – but his memory lives on with Ram. “This is my father.” “Look at him,” Ram says, scrolling through the photo gallery on his father’s phone. Important mementos he managed to retrieve from Qatar. “When I have some difficulty, I miss my father a lot and browse his phone for comfort.”

The families of the deceased should not have to wait any longer. Before the World Cup kicks off, FIFA and the Qatari government have an obligation to make reparations to all the families left behind.

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