NEW DELHI: India came under pressure Friday over the deaths of over 450 nationals in almost two years in Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, with rights groups branding the figures as "very disturbing".
Amnesty International called on the Indian government to release more information about the deaths amid mounting criticism over safety and working conditions of migrants in Qatar's booming construction community.
The Indian embassy in Qatar said the number of deaths was "quite normal" given the large size of the Indian community in the gas-rich Gulf state, adding that most were by natural causes.
"Instead of simply saying that such deaths are normal, the Indian government should provide clearer and more transparent information," said Amnesty International India spokesman Nikhil Eapen.
"What we need to know is who these people were - how old they were and what work they were doing - and how they died."
In response to a Right to Information request filed by AFP, the Indian embassy gave figures detailing the number of deaths in 2012 and the first 11 months of 2013.
On average about 20 migrants died per month, peaking at 27 in August last year. There were 237 fatalities in 2012 and another 218 in 2013 up to December 5, according to the embassy figures.
The embassy did not give any details about the circumstances of the deaths, but the International Trade Union Confederation said the data showed an "exceptionally high mortality rate."
Gateway House, a Mumbai-based foreign policy think-tank, said the deaths were "very disturbing and an issue that the Indian government must be addressing seriously."
Human Rights Watch told AFP that the Qatar government must "take the deaths seriously and investigate them."
"All of these countries need to join together and form a united group to put pressure on Gulf countries to better protect their (migrants') rights and dignity," said HRW South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly.
Most of the labourers in Qatar working on the new stadiums and vast infrastructure projects ahead of football's biggest tournament in the wealthy Gulf state are from South Asia.
Qatar this month revealed a set of guidelines aimed at protecting the rights of thousands of expatriate workers employed on its construction projects.