DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Britons researching migrant worker issues in Qatar, the Gulf nation that is due to host the 2022 World Cup, have gone missing after one of them reported being harassed by police, according to the Norwegian human rights group that employs them.
The Global Network for Rights and Development said Thursday that researcher Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and photographer Ghimire Gundev, 36, were supposed to leave Qatar via the capital Doha on Sunday. Their whereabouts are not known.
Fahad Atalla, project manager for the group in Norway, said he believes Qatari security services were behind the disappearance, but he could not give evidence to support the assertion.
“We’re 99 percent sure they’ve been taken by the Qatari government authorities,” he told the Associated Press. “We spoke to human rights organizations and government authorities, but no one knows what has happened to them.”
According to the rights group, Upadhyaya contacted a friend in Norway on Saturday saying that Qatari police were following and harassing both men. He was working on a report on overworked migrant workers, according to a statement issued by his family.
The London-based rights group Amnesty International said the two had been working in Qatar since Aug. 27 for the Norway-based organization. It called on Qatari authorities to immediately reveal their whereabouts “and dispel the growing fears that they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”
Amnesty International said that a day after contacting his friend over concerns of being followed, Upadhyaya checked out of his hotel but remained in the reception area because of the presence of Qatari police and plain-clothed personnel. He was reported to have checked in for his flight, but airline KLM says he never boarded the aircraft.
The Stavanger, Norway-based group said it is prepared to take legal action to secure the men’s release.
An official at the British Embassy in Doha, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, said the mission is aware of reports that two British nationals have been detained by Qatari authorities and is investigating the matter.
Qatari officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The GNRD, which describes itself as neutral and impartial, was set up in 2008 to promote human rights and development and has branches in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, according to its website.
Oil-rich countries throughout the Gulf Arab region rely on large numbers of low-paid migrant workers, mainly from South Asia and the Philippines.
Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers has come under greater scrutiny since it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, with labor rights activists highlighting unsafe working conditions, allegations of unpaid salaries, contracts binding workers to a single employer and other abuses.
Associated Press writer Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki, Finland contributed to this report.
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