View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, March 2, 2007

Report Claims U.A.E.’s Big Success at Significant Human Cost

A report today from the Ethical Traveler News Team claims that ‘Migrant Workers [are] Exploited While U.A.E. Prospers.’

The article describes the U.A.E. economy running ‘at full throttle’ to become a top tourist destination, a nation with one fifth of the world’s cranes working on a US$100 billion worth of construction and Dubai becoming the fastest growing city in the world.

The report by Christy Hoover asserts that such success is coming at a human cost to the 2 million migrant workers brought to the U.A.E. Specifically Hoover makes the following allegations:
* Low wages—many work for less than $300 per month
* Recruitment agencies routinely force workers to pay for their visa fees, travel and sometimes recruitment fees (usually totaling between US$2,000 and $3,000) with the result that many workers are deeply in debt before work begins
* Illegal confiscation of worker’s passports for months (allegedly to ensure the employee doesn’t abandon the job early)
* Withholding of wages, without explanation, for anywhere between 2-6 months
* The frequent flouting of labor laws

Hoover does acknowledge that certain steps have been taken towards improvement. These include:
* The instituting of laws to protect workers against illegal practices
* The UAE government’s promise in September 2006 to increase the number of labor inspectors from 140 to 1,000 within 18 months
* The creation of a Human Rights Department by the Dubai Police to deal with labor disputes through mediation
* The establishment of a Permanent Committee on Labor Affairs by the Dubai Government to oversee breaches of laborer’s rights

Hoover’s report lacks evidence of specific research and first-hand interviews. While she refers briefly to “the UK Guardian and other sources”, her report would have more weight and balance if it revealed thorough, up-to-date and on the spot research.

It will be interesting to read any response to this report from representatives of the U.A.E. government.

Geoff Pound

Source: Migrant Workers Exploited While U.A.E. Prospers, Ethical Traveler News, March 2007.

Image: A glimpse of the construction scene in Dubai.