Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About 500 migrants from India died in Qatar in the last two years, with an average of 20 deaths per month.
Many of them worked on construction sites in Doha where preparations are underway for the 2022 World Cup.
The figures come from the Indian Embassy in Qatar, which did not however provide details of the circumstances leading to their deaths.
The figures have sparked protests by human rights activists, who called them "exceptionally high."
Qatar hit back, saying that this mortality rate was "normal."
Official figures confirmed by the Indian Embassy in Doha reveal that 237 Indians working in Qatar died in 2012 and 241 in 2013. A further 24 Indians have died in January 2014.
Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in December 2010, there have been 717 recorded Indian deaths.
Sumaikh Bin Ali al- Marri, head of Qatar's National Human Rights Committee, dismissed accusations of human rights violations.
"Indians make up the largest community in Qatar," he said. "If we look at the numbers of Qataris who died . . . of natural causes . . . over the past two years, we see that numbers of deaths among the Indian community are normal".
Although no official figures exist, Indian officials estimate that more than 500,000 Indian workers were in Qatar (about 26 per cent of the country's population) at the end of 2012.
Despite reassurances by the Government of Qatar and the 2022 World Cup organising committee, international observers and human rights activists are concerned about the condition in which hundreds of thousands of migrants are forced to live and work.
The well-established kafala (sponsorship) system is of particularly concern. Under it, employers can submit foreign workers to their will, taking their passports, imposing low wages, long working hours and an inhuman pace of work, not allowing them to change employers or leave the country.