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Qatar to double migrant worker numbers ahead of World Cup
[DOHA] Qatar will more than double the number of migrant labourers in the country to 2.5 million by 2020 ahead of hosting the World Cup, a senior royal family member said on Tuesday.
Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulrahman bin Nasser al-Thani, told a business conference in Doha that the number of workers would reach "2.5 million within three to five years".
It is estimated that there are anywhere between 700,000 and one million migrant workers in the tiny Gulf kingdom, out of a total population of 2.3 million.
The new arrivals will work on major projects in the run up to the football World Cup being held in the country in 2022.
Sheikh al-Thani is the chairman of Daruna, a company that specialises in building migrant labour housing.
He was speaking at the "Qatar Projects" conference, a two-day event that brings together business leaders, consultants and government figures from the infrastructure, transport and energy sectors.
Al-Thani also on Tuesday unveiled proposals for a new accommodation centre for migrant labourers in Qatar, which he said would greatly improve housing standards.
"We are offering our guest workers a living standard of the highest Qatar has ever seen," he said.
Qatar is spending over US$200 billion over the next decade on a number of huge infrastructure projects, including a metro system for Doha, developing the country's roads, and building a new port.
The city of Lusail which will house the stadium where the World Cup final will be played is also being built and the country's main airport, Hamad International, is being upgraded.
The increase in labourer numbers flooding into Qatar is likely to reignite the issue of workers rights in the energy-rich country.
Qatar has come under huge international pressure to better conditions for labourers in the country working on World Cup projects.
In recent weeks, Qatar has announced a major reform of the labour market to implement an electronic payment scheme which should ensure thousands of workers are paid on time.
The change, long championed by rights groups, should mean workers get paid at least once a month and, in some cases, every fortnight.
But campaigners have called on the Qatari government to do more, including addressing the controversial "kafala" sponsorship system, which enables employers to prevent foreign workers from leaving the country or changing jobs and has been likened to modern-day slavery.
Other areas where campaigners have called for change include the confiscation of passports by employers, workers not being issued an exit visa so they can leave Qatar, and migrant labourers having to pay recruitment fees.