Two British human rights workers who disappeared while researching alleged abuse of migrant labourers in Qatar are being held by the Gulf state on unspecified charges, it was confirmed today.
The gas-rich country, which has embarked on a vast building boom to prepare for the 2022 World Cup, acknowledged that Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev had been held by its “security authorities” and remain in detention after a six-day silence on their whereabouts.
The Norwegian charity employing the Britons said Mr Upadhyaya had sent text messages before his disappearance last Sunday complaining that he was being followed by plain clothes police and feared arrest in the final hours of a visit to interview Nepalese labourers about their working and living conditions.
In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted that the men were being held according to “the principles of human right” guaranteed by its constitution. The authorities said the men were being “interrogated” for alleged violation of the law but declined to detail any offences for which they had been arrested.
After several days in which the men’s whereabouts were unknown and concerns were raised about their welfare, British diplomats have now visited the men and hopes were raised last night that they could be released shortly.
Video: "Should the World Cup be held in Qatar?" - London Live
In a message to his family, obtained by The Independent, Mr Upadhyaya, 52, who is of Nepalese origin, suggested that he and Mr Gundev, 36, had been detained because of alleged irregularities with their documents and were in good health.
He said: “I am well, I have been well looked after and I will be home soon. We have been arrested due to problems with our paperwork.”
The men, who were in the Qatari capital Doha to complete research for a report by Norway’s Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), had been due to leave the Gulf state last Sunday after spending five days investigating conditions in accommodation camps for some of its 1.4 million migrant workers.
GNRD said Mr Upadhyaya had grown increasingly concerned at the presence of undercover police around him and a Nepalese diplomat with whom he was working had confronted officers over the apparent surveillance.
The Briton then sent a series of increasingly fraught text messages to friends and colleagues complaining that he was being watched. In one message he wrote: “I am being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now.”
Qatar has been the focus of an international outcry over the deaths of hundreds of migrants and their working conditions as it presses ahead with a £123bn infrastructure programme ahead of the World Cup. The country has since pledged to reform its labour laws and overhaul construction safety legislation.