Migrant Workers in the UAE
Migrant Immigration into the UAE
It is not easy for any country to deal with immigration policies and issues and it takes lots of efforts to manage citizen’s demands and to provide migrants their fair share in the system. Many countries develop at the expense of migrant workers, but they fail to come up with just policies regarding migrants’ rights.
The United Arab Emirates started progressing economically ever since it started exporting oil. The economic boom created huge employment opportunities as the industries grow rapidly. These new opportunities attracted large numbers of people from all over the world and they migrated to UAE in search of jobs. This has been going on till today. People go to UAE in search of better jobs; most of them come from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. According to 2015 data, 65 % of all migrants come from these three Asian countries.
The UAE might seem to be an attractive place for working as it is relatively easier to get a job and a work visa, than in many other countries. However, the reality is worse than most can expect. Draconian labor laws of the UAE give all the powers and authorities to the employers and make employees almost their slaves. Once a person gets a job, he becomes totally dependent on his employer, due to the system of ‘Kafala’ (sponsorship), to the point that he needs to take employer’s permission to look for a job somewhere else, even after the expiration of his contract with the employer. Also, they are usually paid very low wages. They live in poor conditions in labor camps, and have to work as slaves and are deported, if they try to abscond.
It was only recently that UAE government took some measures to address labour’ issues in UAE and to improve their condition. With the amendments in labor laws, the UAE government has formulated policies regarding a standard work contract between an employer and employee. They have also highlighted the conditions which will lead to the termination of the contract and the procedures that migrants need to follow to receive a work permit. It also prohibited employers to confiscate workers’ passports. The new laws came into effect from January 1st, 2016. However, the UAE government has failed to successfully implement these new laws and to protect migrant workers from discriminatory policies.
A recent issue regarding around 100 migrant workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India have revealed the fact that migrants are still helpless in front of their employers. These migrants are trapped in Abu Dhabi and have been forcefully working without wages since November 2015 because their employer has refused to renew their work permits. Also, their documents like, labor cards, visas, and the resident identity card has expired and the sponsor is not renewing them, which makes their condition even more difficult. The stranded migrants have asked their respective governments to rescue them.
The UAE government needs to take concrete measures to address the poor condition of migrant workers and to secure their rights, after all the country largely depends on foreign workers for development.