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82 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Workers' misery belies Dubai's glitter

Saturday 15 April 2006 7:05 PM GMT

Beyond Dubai's shimmering skyscrapers lies Sonapur, a crowded and rundown camp for Asian labourers toiling on the city's monumental projects.

Sonapur, or the golden place in Hindi, once a burial ground, is now a collection of tenements housing more than 150,000 workers, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, according to a UAE-based Indian community organisation.

Ghulam Mustafa, 35, stands at the entrance of one 35-room compound where he and some 600 other migrant workers live in this desolate desert area on Dubai's fringe.

"Welcome to the damaged camp," he says.

Past a battered metal gate painted orange, dozens of men sit around a courtyard littered with broken furniture and piles of garbage bags.

The one-storey structure resembles a school with rooms measuring 3.6 metres lining a dank and poorly-lit corridor.

Food is cooked on gas stoves attached to propane cylinders.

Little to save

Niaz Hussein, 24, shares one room with 14 others, most of whom sleep on the floor since there are only two bunk beds inside.

The native of Pakistan's impoverished southeastern Sindh province has been in Dubai for 13 months trying to squeeze a living from odd construction jobs to support his wife and daughter and elderly parents back home.

He earns four dirhams (1.10 dollars) an hour.

If he is lucky, he can make about one thousand dirhams (274 dollars) a month, out of which he has to spend 342 dirhams on food and rent and pay back the fees charged by the recruiting agency that brought him to Dubai and arranged for his work permit.

Those fees can be as high as 12,000 dirhams.

Hussein is working on a road construction project but has not been paid for more than a month.

"It is unbearable, I keep thinking how my family is coping," he said wearing stained blue shalwar, Pakistan's traditional male dress.


The plight of Asian labourers in the United Arab Emirates, the seven-emirate federation that includes booming Dubai, came into focus again on March 21 when 2,500 rioted at the construction site of Burj Dubai, slated to be the world's tallest skyscraper.

Some destroyed vehicles and equipment.

Their employer, a British-UAE joint venture called Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, blamed the incident on "misinformation and misunderstanding", adding that the issue had been resolved.

Burj Dubai's owner, Emaar, the real-estate powerhouse controlled by the Dubai government, was swift to issue a terse statement that the incident had nothing to do with the tower and that work there was uninterrupted.

Close to 50 contractors and subcontractors are involved in the project, one of several high profile developments aimed at transforming Dubai into a world capital attracting 15 million visitors by 2010.

It is already the oil-rich Gulf's commercial hub.

"Live the life," a big blue Emaar billboard at the project site reads depicting Westerners laughing and feeding each other with chopsticks.

Regular complaints

The Indian consulate's labour and welfare consul, BS Mubarak, said he gets at least 10 complaints a month mostly related to unpaid and late wages and that the incident at Burj Dubai may have been sparked by the long queues that workers have to endure to punch their timecards.

Indians and Pakistanis make up nearly 45% of the UAE's population of about four million.

Emiratis account for only 20%.

The riot prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to issue a statement on March 30 calling on the UAE government to "end abusive labour practices" describing labour conditions as "less than human".

Ali al-Kaabi, the labour minister, called the statement "insane and illogical".

Previous protests

Labour trouble is not new to Dubai.

In September, hundreds of workers walked off the Palm Jumeirah project, a man-made island off Dubai's coast, protesting unpaid wages.

They blocked a major highway for hours.

More attention

"If you want to keep the situation under control, they (government) have to give more attention to these issues," Kumar added.

Trouble often begins when subcontractors run into financial difficulties or are not paid on time because of delays in getting their work certified by main contractors on a project.

"The blue-collar workers are the last link in the chain so they are the worst affected," Kumar said.

"They have all come with lots of hopes and commitments from back home ... when they are stuck and find it so difficult even for their own survival obviously frustration sets in."

82 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Absolute disgrace. I am confident, though, that the government can find a solution to this problem over the next few years. There is certainly a lot of pressure on them (internally and internationally). Emiratis are civilized people, not animals.

Watching Dubai Grow . . .
726 Posts
UK Newspaper article 15-04-06

Saturdays 'Daily Mail' newspaper in the UK ran a two page feature on the plight of immigrant workers in Dubai titled 'THE DARK SIDE OF DUBAI'

Article half page title

Article concluding text:

A sad story to read (Still no mention of Ayoubco boss Emad Ayoub fleeing Dubai leaving The Lighthouse Investors & Ayoubco workers stranded . . who promises 'DUBAI CARES', I surely wish it did!)

1,711 Posts
Man, the british tabloids are so full of shit. I despise them so much, especially as so many people seem to replace their brains with them.
But really it's a good thing that this is getting coverage in the press, especially the arab press. It will force something to be done about it, quickly. And as long as something is done it shouldn't have too negative effect on the visitor/investor numbers.

Dubai State of Mind
10,321 Posts
Unfortunately this will hit UK investement into Dubai big time because of word of mouth and bad feeling stirred from the press. Many peple who were just thinking of investing there now that the freehold law has passed will decide to forget it and invest somewhere else instead. People like to be proud of their investments and boasts about them. Now when they tell their friends they have just bought a luxury apartments they will get told off by their friends who have heard something or other about the workers without knowing all the facts. Seems that the bad treatment of workers has finally caught up on Dubai as predicted.

My Mind Has Left My Body
22,042 Posts
mookieflookie [QUOTE said:
Burj Dubai's owner, Emaar, the real-estate powerhouse controlled by the Dubai government
jeeze, who would have dreamt their was a connection :cheers:

Funny this part of the article was left out....

No day goes by without a story in the local papers about labour woes and even Hollywood thriller Syriana has a few scenes about the hardship of Asian labourers in the Gulf.

The movie, partly shot in Dubai in 2004, will be shown in the UAE starting April 12 with these scenes censored, according to the distributor

Lets make sure to show the movie about a fictional conpiracy to kill Arabian shieks but lets not dare let the locals see any realistic images of Dubai work camps.

And luve2bebrown claimed there censosrhip was dead in the UAE. If that is not censorship I don't know what is.

Registered User
694 Posts
Sad.... Importing workers throwing them in near concentration camp conditions and paying them dirt. I guess thats the price of growth in Dubai.

'One of the world's largest construction booms is feeding off impoverished immigrant workers in Dubai, but they're treated as less than human,' said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
A recent report by the group painted a deeply disturbing picture of immigrant lives in the UAE. It claimed that bleak living conditions, combined with long working hours and unacceptably low pay, had led to rising suicide rates among foreign workers in Dubai. In 2005, 80 Indian residents took their lives, up from 67 in 2004. In addition, an estimated 880 foreign workers died in accidents on UAE construction sites.

According to 36-year-old Kamal (not his real name), who spearheaded the Burj Dubai protest, more needs to be done. 'These protests received attention in the press and were forgotten about, we need to do more. I was involved in a sit-down protest on the motorway last month, but the police came along with sticks and beat us on the backs and head. Many of my friends were hospitalised and deported. The riot got a lot of attention, but things haven't improved for us. We already know what we have to do next, we take our protests into the malls and to the beaches. Our situation needs international attention and only by unsettling tourists can we achieve this. They need to see how desperate we really are.'

11,739 Posts
880 died on construction sites? I thought it was more like 60. Anyways that's still not acceptable, the death rate from construction related accidents should be 0.

I think this whole thing will get really ugly soon. You know it's bad when British tabloids start writing about it because they'll blow it way out of proportion.

8,865 Posts
There was something similar happened in Qatar recently, as two workers died mysteriously in their sleeps at the same time in a camp in Ras Laffan, 70 km off Doha. Riots occured, and the army was called in to intervene. Now, the situation is back to normal, but workers should be treated better.

150,000. Holy crap! Thats a lot of people!!
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