THOUSANDS of people have been chucked out of their homes in Qatar with just two hours notice – in the same areas where Brit football fans will stay during the World Cup.
More than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and shut down by authorities, forcing foreign workers out onto the streets.
Most were in neighbourhoods where the government has rented buildings for World Cup fan accommodation where supports will fork out up to nearly Â£400 a night.
The move comes less than four weeks before the start of the global footie tournament – which has drawn intense international scrutiny of Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers.
Occupants of one building, which housed 1,200 people in Doha’s Al Mansoura district, were given just two hours notice before they had to leave on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Cops later returned and forced everyone out before locking the doors to the building.
Some men had not been able to return in time to collect their belongings.
One man explained they have nowhere to go as he prepared to sleep out for a second night with around 10 other men, some of them shirtless.
He and most other workers declined to give their names or personal details for fear of reprisals from the authorities or employers.
Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small fridge into the back of a pickup truck.
They said they had found a room in Sumaysimah, about 25 miles north of Doha.
A Qatari government official said the evictions are unrelated to the World Cup and were designed “in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to re-organise areas of Doha”.
They added: “All have since been rehoused in safe and appropriate accommodation.”
They added that requests to vacate “would have been conducted with proper notice”.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar’s World Cup organisers directed inquiries to the government.
Around 85 per cent of Qatar’s three million population are foreign workers.
Many of those evicted work as drivers, day labourers or have contracts with companies but are responsible for their own accommodation – unlike those working for major construction firms who live in camps housing tens of thousands of people.
One worker said the evictions targeted single men, while foreign workers with families were unaffected.
Some buildings had their electricity switched off.
The Qatari official said municipal authorities have been enforcing a 2010 Qatari law which prohibits “workers’ camps within family residential areas” – a designation encompassing most of central Doha – and gives them the power to move people out.
Some of the evicted workers said they hoped to find places to live amid purpose-built workers’ accommodation in and around the industrial zone on Doha’s southwestern outskirts or in outlying cities, a long commute from their jobs.
The evictions “keep Qatar’s glitzy and wealthy facade in place without publicly acknowledging the cheap labour that makes it possible,” said Vani Saraswathi, Director of Projects at Migrant-Rights.org, which campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East.
“This is deliberate ghetto-isation at the best of times. But evictions with barely any notice are inhumane beyond comprehension.”
Some workers said they had experienced serial evictions.
One said he was forced to change buildings in Al Mansoura at the end of September, only to be moved on 11 days later with no prior notice, along with some 400 others.
Mohammed, a driver from Bangladesh, said he had lived in the same neighbourhood for 14 years until Wednesday, when the municipality told him he had 48 hours to leave the villa he shared with 38 other people.
He said labourers who built up the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup were being pushed aside as the tournament approaches.
He added: “Who made the stadiums? Who made the roads? Who made everything? Bengalis, Pakistanis. People like us. Now they are making us all go outside.”
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