A Qatari official leading the country’s World Cup says that between 400 and 500 migrant workers died in connection with tournament projects, far higher than the government’s previous counts but still well below some projections.
“The estimate is about 400. Between 400 and 500. I don’t have the exact number. That’s something that’s being discussed,” Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told journalist Piers Morgan on TalkTV this week.
Morgan pressed al-Thawadi in the matter, saying some would argue the death toll is too big a price to pay.
“One death is a death too many, plain and simple,” al-Thawadi said.
The official insisted that health and safety standards on the country’s World Cup sites are “most definitely” improving each year but admitted that “improvements have to happen.”
The Qatari government had previously put the death toll at well under 100.
The Supreme Committee overseeing the World Cup later said al-Thawadi was referring to “national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities.”
Last year, The Guardian reported that more than 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar during the decade of its World Cup preparations.
The comments add to ongoing humanitarian concerns about the workers who built up Qatar’s stadiums and infrastructure to hold this year’s international tournament — and other controversies about the host country.
At the start of the tournament, seven European teams said FIFA threatened them with sanctions if they went through with plans to wear rainbow-printed armbands to support LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.