Some residents were granted only two hours notice to vacate their homes, a report said.
Qatar has reportedly cleared out apartment buildings housing foreign workers in the capital city of Doha, which will host hundreds of thousands of incoming football fans during the tournament, according to a Reuters report.
The majority were in areas including Al Mansoura and neighbouring districts where apartments are being listed for rent. However, the accommodation buildings referred to by the report are not among those listed on the Qatar Accommodation Portal, Doha News has learned.
The workers claim that more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and shut down by officials. Some say they were forced to camp out on the sidewalk outside one of their old houses, according to the news agency’s report.
One person who spoke to Doha News said people who don’t have rooms are sleeping on the rooftop at night and on the staircase during the day.
In a statement to Doha News, a Qatari government official privy to the matter said the move is unrelated to the World Cup but is part of efforts to enforce a 2010 ruling prohibiting worker group accommodations within family residential areas.
“Since 2010, Qatar has had legally-designated residential areas that are designed to limit informal and unplanned housing arrangements that do not meet the specifications of adequate housing. The designations were put in place to ensure proper accommodation exist,” the statement said.
The Reuters report said authorities gave residents in a building located in Doha’s Al Mansoura neighbourhood just two hours to vacate, which locals claim held 1,200 people.
Two hours later, municipal officials allegedly returned, ordered everyone out, and closed the building’s doors. Some men were unable to make it back in time to get their possessions, Reuters reported.
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” one man, who spent at least two nights sleeping outside with about 10 other men, told Reuters
Many of the evicted people hold jobs as drivers, day labourers, or contract workers, but they are still responsible for finding their own home, unlike those employed by large construction companies who live in camps that can house tens of thousands of people.
Foreign workers living with their families were unaffected by the evictions, which targeted single men.
However, the government official told Doha News that residents who are discovered to be living in unfit housing without legal contracts are offered the opportunity to transfer elsewhere in a reasonable amount of time, “in accordance with continuing comprehensive and long-term plans to reorganise sections of Doha.”
“Officials constantly make sure that people are placed in suitable and safe housing.”
Residents who spoke to Doha News said the electricity was turned off in certain buildings in what they say was an attempt to force them out.
The government official told Doha News that “any tenant who believes the terms of their agreement are not being fulfilled may file a complaint with the Rental Disputes Settlements Committee Office, which will review the case and render a decision”.
Bangladeshi driver Mohammed claimed to have lived in the same neighbourhood for 14 years up until the municipality gave him 48 hours to vacate the residence he shared with 38 other people on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Qatar has received a barrage of criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, with scrutiny exacerbating in recent weeks as the World Cup looms around the corner.
Over the last decade, Doha has seen a number of historic labour reforms to address such concerns.
However, in recent months, there has been a slew of new complaints about working hours, compensation, and a variety of other issues. Some workers who spoke to Doha News say they have received no response despite filing complaints.
Qatar’s government insists it is taking concerns seriously and points to a number of labour reforms introduced in recent years including the introduction of the regions first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage and the abolishment of the Kafala system.