British experts are to help build a new generation of “humane” homes for more than 50,000 migrant construction workers in Qatar in the wake of a international outrage at dire living conditions for labourers ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Workers’ villages featuring health centres, shops, recreational areas and even psychologists’ consulting rooms will be built in co-operation with the government of Qatar, according to Quantex Qatar, a building consultancy set up by two British quantity surveyors.
It is understood the plan has been accelerated after criticism from Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) after the Guardian exposed inhumane living conditions leading to the deaths of workers.
Some existing workers’ accommodation requires a dozen people to sleep in one room with insanitary washing and cooking conditions and little cooling equipment. The new housing – to be built in collaboration with US company Global Building Solutions, which has acquired around 1m square metres of land – will be made up of three-bedroom homes with a limit of four to a room. Each bed will be screened off and each home will have a living room, bathroom and dedicated covered outdoor space.
Construction companies that lease them for workers will be given an insurance-backed guarantee that the facilities will meet both Qatar Foundation and international inspection standards.
“We have formed a joint venture to deliver modern, clean and humane workers’ villages for the market in Qatar,” said Michael Murphy, chief executive of GBS. “We will build and operate the facilities at our cost, and will simply rent them out on a contract basis.”
“It is designed with one thing in mind – to improve the lives of the migrant workers who are fundamental to the success of Qatar 2022,” Simon Trafford of Quantex Qatar told Building magazine.
It is estimated that at least another 500,000 migrant labourers will be needed in the eight years running up to the World Cup to build in excess of £100bn worth of infrastructure and facilities. So far Nepal and India have provided the largest number of migrant workers, who make up over 90% of the Gulf state’s population. The ITUC predicted as many as 4,000 migrant workers could die in Qatar during that period unless conditions are improved.
In a report released this week, based on two recent investigations in Qatar and scores of interviews, Amnesty found workers living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation exposed to sewage and sometimes without running water. Amnesty’s general secretary, Salil Shetty, said some workers were being “ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive”.
The new housing will be semi-prefabricated in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the first units are expected to become available from April next year with thousands of beds a month made available.