Qatar says 11 killed in fire at migrant worker accommodation

AP News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2016 3:32 PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Eleven people were killed in a fire that broke out in housing for migrant laborers working on a tourism project in Qatar, authorities said late Thursday.

The fire is likely to intensify scrutiny of conditions for low-wage guest workers in the wealthy Gulf nation, which is being transformed by billions of dollars' worth of construction projects as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.

Rights groups have repeatedly criticized Qatar's treatment of foreign workers, who are effectively bound to their employer under a sponsorship system that activists say leaves employees open to abuse. Qatar has enacted some labor reforms and plans to implement others, but many workers still sleep in crowded, substandard housing.

The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that the fire erupted late Wednesday in housing used by one of the companies working on the Salwa tourism project in the south of the country. It said that 12 people were hospitalized.

The ministry did not provide details on the identities of the victims. Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Many migrant workers in Qatar come from South Asian countries including India and Nepal, as well as parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

The fire comes two months after another blaze broke out at an $825 million mall under construction near a stadium where Qatar plans to host part of the 2022 soccer tournament. Some 14,000 laborers and staff had to be evacuated in that fire, though there were no reported injuries.

Wednesday's fire was believed to be the deadliest in Qatar since a 2012 blaze at the high-end Villaggio shopping mall in the capital, Doha. That fire killed 19 people, including 13 children, many of them foreigners.