Unspecified Bangladeshi migrants among thousands of construction workers were trapped in the labour camps in Qatar as the authorities sealed off huge area of Doha Industrial Area in a bid to fight the COVID-19 that has already spread to more than 170 countries.
The Qatari labour camps have been in total lockdown after hundreds of construction workers became infected with COVID-19, according to officials concerned and newspaper reports.
Inside the quarantined camps, the migrant workers were allegedly passing days in fear and uncertainty with unpaid leave and with only food and accommodation covered.
Bangladesh embassy in Doha could not specify how many Bangladeshi migrants were trapped in the labour camps or infected with the coronavirus under treatment there.
Labour counsellor Mustafizur Rahaman said that they were yet to confirm the number of infected Bangladeshis as the Qatar did not disclose the nationalities.
‘The Bangladesh mission requested the Qatar government to ensure food and medicine in the camp where necessary,’ he said in a message to New Age on Friday.
He also said that the Bangladesh mission officials visited some camps and they were in contact with companies to oversee the situation.
Over eight lakh workers from Bangladesh got jobs in Qatar since 1976, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
About 3.5 lakh workers from Bangladesh are currently employed in Qatar, said BMET officials.
The Guardian reported on Friday that the Qatari police were guarding the perimeter of a huge zone within the ‘Industrial Area’, leaving thousands of workers trapped in squalid, over-crowded camps, where the virus could spread rapidly.
No one can enter or leave, say workers who live in the area, many of whom had been working on FIFA World Cup 2022 infrastructure projects, it added.
Inside the quarantined camps, workers describe an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
It also reported that some workers were being put on unpaid leave until further notice, with only food and accommodation covered.
‘The situation is getting worse each day. Workers from camp 1 to camp 32 are in lockdown. My friends who live there are in extreme panic,’ said one worker from Bangladesh.
The lockdown appears to have been enforced after the government announced 238 cases of the virus among ‘expatriate workers’ on 11 March.
A further 113 cases, most of which appear to be linked to that outbreak, were identified over the following five days.
There are around 2 million migrant workers in Qatar – mostly from south Asia and east Africa – who make up 95 percent of the working population. The number of migrants has increased rapidly in recent years as the country gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.
Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers live in crowded dormitories in the Industrial Area outside Doha, often packed eight or 10 to a room.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Qatar’s old industrial zone has emerged as a hot spot for the coronavirus in the Gulf Arab state, putting at risk many migrant workers who live and work in the area of car service centres, warehouses and small shops.
Government spokeswoman Lulwa Rashed al-Khater told a news conference that the new cases included two Qataris who had been in Europe, with the rest migrant workers.
The Qatari authorities on Tuesday announced the closure of several square kilometres of the industrial area in Doha, the capital, which also contains labour camps and other housing units.
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