Migrant worker deaths in Saudi Arabia

Migrant worker deaths in Saudi Arabia raise concerns about World Cup preparations

In a heartbreaking scene at Dhaka’s international airport, coffins containing the dead of migrant workers come home to Bangladesh.

Among them is Abdul Jalil Shaikh, whose journey to Saudi Arabia ended fatally, leaving his family devastated and in debt. His story is not unique; many of others have travelled to Saudi Arabia in quest of work, only to die under strange circumstances.

The figures are startling. Between 2008 and 2022, almost 13,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers perished in Saudi Arabia, with 1,502 deaths reported in 2022 alone.

The majority of these fatalities are attributed to “natural causes,” but without a thorough investigation, families are kept in the dark and denied recompense and closure.

The issue has raised concerns, particularly since Saudi Arabia is set to host the 2034 World Cup. If awarded, the influx of workers will skyrocket, increasing worries of further catastrophes.

Why are young, healthy men dying? What conditions do they face in Saudi Arabia?

Human rights organisations identify hard working conditions, exploitation, stress, and heatstroke as potential contributors to the fatality rate.

They urge Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh to conduct thorough investigations into these tragedies and protect migrant workers’ safety and well-being.

The comparisons to Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, are frightening. Reports of labour violations and migrant worker deaths cast a pall over the competition.

As Fifa examines Saudi Arabia as a potential host, it faces increased pressure to resolve human rights concerns.

Saudi Arabia argues that it provides a safe working environment and thoroughly investigates workplace mishaps. However, families like Abdul Jalil Shaikh’s continue to suffer, leaving nothing except sadness and financial difficulty.

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As coffins are set to rest and families grieve for their loved ones, the cycle continues. Despite the hazards, an increasing number of Bangladeshi young men intend to pursue opportunities abroad.

It’s a stark reality: for them, the prospect of a better future outweighs whatever risks they may face.

In the midst of tragedy and uncertainty, one thing is certain: the suffering of migrant workers cannot be overlooked. As the world looks to the next World Cup host, let us not forget the lives lost in pursuit of a dream.

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