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Qatar has emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the center of the capital Doha, where football fans will stay during the World Cup, Reuters news agency reported on 29 October, citing testimony from several workers who were evicted from their homes.
More than a dozen buildings were evacuated and closed down by authorities, according to workers. The migrant workers, mostly Asians and Africans, were forced to seek alternative shelter. Some ended up sleeping on the sidewalk in front of one of their former homes, Reuters found.
In a building that residents say housed 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, authorities informed tenants that they had two hours to leave. City officials returned and forced everyone out and locked the building’s doors.
Some residents were unable to return in time to retrieve their belongings. “We have nowhere to go,” one man told Reuters the next day.
A Qatari government official said the evictions were not related to the World Cup and were being carried out “in line with the comprehensive and long-term plans underway to reorganize areas of Doha.”
“All have since been relocated to safe and appropriate housing,” the official said, adding that the evacuation requests would have been carried out “with proper notice.”
The massive influx of foreign workers has allowed Qatar to prepare the infrastructure for one of the world’s biggest sporting events. New roads, a new airport, a custom-built rail network and seven new stadiums had to be built.
According to Amnesty International, migrants — mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines and African countries such as Kenya and Uganda — make up more than 80 per cent of Qatar’s 2.8 million inhabitants.
The eviction process comes less than four weeks before the start of the international football tournament, which kicks off on November 20.
The tournament has attracted international attention because of the working conditions of foreign workers and the restrictive social laws of the host country, while the construction of the stadiums has reportedly caused the death of thousands of foreign workers, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.