Qatar has emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the same areas in the centre of the capital Doha where visiting soccer fans will stay during the World Cup, workers who were evicted from their homes told Reuters.

Qatar migrant workers

They said more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and shut down by authorities, forcing the mainly Asian and African workers to seek what shelter they could - including bedding down on the pavement outside one of their former homes.

The move comes less than four weeks before the Nov. 20 start of the global soccer tournament which has drawn intense international scrutiny of Qatar's treatment of foreign workers and its restrictive social laws.

At one building which residents said housed 1,200 people in Doha's Al Mansoura district, authorities told people at about 8 pm on Wednesday they had just two hours to leave.

Municipal officials returned around 10.30 pm, forced everyone out and locked the doors to the building, they said. Some men had not been able to return in time to collect their belongings.

"We don't have anywhere to go," one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to sleep out for a second night with around 10 other men, some of them shirtless in the autumn heat and humidity of the Gulf Arab state.

He, and most other workers who spoke to Reuters, declined to give their names or personal details for fear of reprisals from the authorities or employers.

Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small fridge into the back of a pickup truck. They said they had found a room in Sumaysimah, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Doha.

A Qatari government official said the evictions are unrelated to the World Cup and were designed "in line with ongoing comprehensive and long-term plans to re-organise areas of Doha."

"All have since been rehoused in safe and appropriate accommodation," the official said, adding that requests to vacate "would have been conducted with proper notice."

World soccer's governing body FIFA did not respond to a request for comment and Qatar's World Cup organisers directed inquiries to the government.