The Shocking Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Dubai

Dubai is a city known for its sky high towers, upscale residential areas and streets full of expensive and glamorous cars. However, there is a dark side to the city that is not known by many people – the shocking exploitation of the migrant workers.

The migrant workers in Dubai are the city’s backbone whose sweat and efforts keep the city running. From construction to cleaning and other activities, the foreign workers play an important role in the development of the city.

The migrant workers in the UAE constitute about 90 percent of the total workforce in the private sector. Most of them belong to the South Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

Many of the workers are paid a meager salary with most working 12 hours shifts.  They are often giving accommodation in shanty and run-down places. In short, the migrant workers are treated as slaves of the rich gulf oil city.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report had found that foreign workers that make up about 88.5 percent of UAE population are subjected to different labor abuses. In the 2016 World Report, the HRW had stated that the domestic workers are particularly subject to abhorrent treatment. These workers don’t have any protection offered by the labor law in the Emirati state.

According to the human rights group, the ‘Kafala’ sponsorship program also exploits the workers due to abhorrent working contracts. The worker's contract could be revoked at will by the sponsor due to which they would have to be deported back to their own countries without any severance or other payments.

President of the International Trade Union (ITU) Sharan Burrow had labeled the shocking treatment of the migrant workers in Dubai as modern slavery. The country that is the 10th richest in the world with GDP of above $430 billion has turned a blind eye to the plight of the exploited workers in Dubai.

A BBC reporter named Ben Anderson had filmed a documentary detailed the condition of migrant workers in the city. The documentary showed the abhorrent conditions in which workers were living. Due to the low salary, a number of men living in the city were in debt and were too poor to even afford a trip back home.

Public protests are not allowed in Dubai. However, angry workers fed up by the treatment and poor pay protested on the Fountain Views development site in the central part of the city. While it’s true that capitalism creates the divide between the classes, the shocking exploitation of the workers in Dubai is an act worthy of censure from any ethical viewpoint.