It is a city renowned for glitz, glamour and boasts the world’s tallest building.
But there’s an ugly side to Dubai that you won’t read about in its tourist brochures — its army of migrant workers. The workers, who are largely from South East Asia, are paid well below the prices charged in the city’s expensive boutiques and glamorous hotels.
It is a city renowned for glitz, glamour and boasts the world’s tallest building.But there’s an ugly side to Dubai that you won’t read about in its tourist brochures. The migrant workers are not only at greater risk of exploration, but are often housed in filthy conditions, with little down time. In short they are the hidden slaves of a rich city. According to Human Rights Watch, foreigners make up 88.5 per cent of United Arab Emirates citizens, with low-paid migrant workers being “subjected to abuses that about to forced labor”.
While exact figures are not known, it is estimated that there are three million of these workers in the UAE alone. In its World Report 2017, HRW said domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to abuse as they don’t have the minimal protection afforded by UAE labour law.
The human rights group said the kafala sponsorship system, which tied migrants to their employers who acted as their sponsors, meant workers were at an even greater risk of exploitation because they could “revoke sponsorship at will, making them liable to deportation”.
It is estimated that around 150,000 migrant female workers are employed under this scheme. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) president Sharan Burrow last year labelled the migrant workers situation as a form of “modern slavery”, Reuters reported. The UAE is one of the 10 richest countries in the world with GDP of more than $430 billion a year.
However, HRW found part of that wealth was funded by contract workers from some of the world’s poorest countries including Indonesia, India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. In 2012, BBC reporter Ben Anderson travelled to Dubai to film a documentary which detailed the plight of foreign workers.
In a three-month investigation, Anderson interviewed workers and witnessed the shocking conditions the men were exposed to. He also found the men had been approached by agents in their villages in Bangladesh, telling the men they will be paid $580 a month. But in reality they are paid half that with the agents taking a $4000 cut in the process.
Anderson also found the men were then in debt and too poor to return home, with many working 12 hour shifts six days a week.
The shocking conditions were further highlighted last March when hundreds of migrant workers staged a protest over pay. Public protests are banned in the UAE, but angry workers defied the law to demand fair pay for their work on the 202ha Fountain Views development site in central Dubai, the BBC reported.
One worker told the broadcaster he was paid a monthly salary of just $170, well below what was promised to him.