[DEBATE] : Fw: [LNSA] South Asian Workers Protest in Dubai: comment and reports
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Thu Nov 1 07:48:47 GMT 2007
----- Original Message -----
From: Harsh Kapoor
To: lnsa at yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 11:46 PM
Subject: [LNSA] South Asian Workers Protest in Dubai: comment and reports
[Labour Notes South Asia
Year 7, Dispatch No. 810, November 1, 2007 ]
o o o
November 1, 2007
Voiceless in Dubai
The deportation of hundreds of Asian labourers
working in Dubai by the UAE government and its
intention to expel many more after the workers
staged a strike at the weekend over poor wages,
harsh working conditions and squalid living
arrangements has caused concern in the workers'
home countries, including Pakistan. The issue
calls for the attention of not only their
countries of origin, but also international
organisations charged with the protection of
labour rights and the well-being of workers,
migrant or local. The UAE government has accused
the striking workers of illegally occupying and
vandalising buildings besides pelting stones at
police and vehicles. What the government of the
UAE has failed to mention is that the unrest has
been on the rise among the 1.7 million labour
force in recent years, 90 percent of whom happen
to be from South Asian countries. The number of
work-related accidental deaths in the booming
round-the-clock construction industry has by now
run into the hundreds, while incidents of suicide
too have been reported among the frustrated
workers. The migrant workers, travelling to the
Gulf states with dreams of building a brighter
future for themselves and their families through
sweat and toil, are forced to live in cramped
quarters, their travel documents are confiscated
in sheer violation of the laws, their wages
payments are often in arrears and their
protection against abuse, discrimination and
exploitation is severely hampered in the face of
a judicial system distinguished only in the
absence of due process and renowned for being
skewed against residents of foreign origin.
Migrant workers, especially female and child
domestic servants, face intimidation and
violence, including sexual assault, at the hands
of employers, supervisors, sponsors, the police
and security forces. The oil-rich Gulf countries
represent states with the apparent façade of a
modern state but totally devoid of such states'
protections to workers against exploitation and
The fact that the migrant workers have risen in
protest in a milieu not known for valuing
fundamental civil freedoms and rights underlines
the severity of the situation. The economic value
of the migrant workers is obvious both for the
host as well as their home countries, but it is
ironic that the World Bank or ILO should
knuckle-rap poor countries for not conforming to
international labour standards day in and day out
but turn a blind eye when it comes to rich
countries with a grimmer situation. The Migrant
Workers Convention, operative since the turn of
the century, guarantees migrants' human rights
and promises state protection against abuse by
employers, agents and public officials. This
landmark convention, ratified by 22 states, has
yet to be adopted by most Gulf countries. It is
also intriguing that the vernacular media, so
vociferous in identifying incidents of real or
perceived racial discrimination in the
much-berated Western societies, should keep mum
when it comes to reporting ill-treatment of our
countrymen in the Gulf states. Similarly, the
South Asian states that are prone to raise the
banner of their sovereignty at the drop of a hat,
have singularly failed to address such stark
abuse of their citizens. In fact,
less-than-egalitarian states are willing
collaborators of human and labour rights
violations as long as the remittances from
migrant workers help put an artificial gloss on
their economic performance indicators. If
sensitivity to issues concerning human welfare is
the line separating prosperity from civilization,
then it is time the plight of migrant workers in
the Gulf be paid serious attention to.
o o o
Nov 01, 2007
90 Indians facing prosecution in Dubai
They are accused of direct involvement in Saturday's violence
- Photo: AP
RELIEF FOR MANY: Construction workers carry their
belongings as they return to the Pauling Middle
East labour camp in Jebel Ali Wednesday.
DUBAI: Authorities here have released most of the
4,500 Asian workers detained after their protests
for higher wages turned violent on Saturday.
However, 159 workers, including 90 Indians, are
facing prosecution as they have been accused of
direct involvement in the violence.
A majority of those released resumed work on
Wednesday after furnishing bonds that they would
abide by the terms of their existing contracts.
As many as 3,900 of the 4,500 held were Indians,
hailing mainly from Punjab, Rajasthan and Andhra
The protesters belonged to a construction company
operating in Dubai's sprawling Jebel Ali Free
Zone. The situation turned ugly on Saturday
evening when a section of the workers attacked
police vehicles, disrupted traffic and damaged
The workers were arrested in the early hours of
Sunday. They were taken to the Al Awir jail on
the outskirts of the city. The Indian embassy in
Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai intervened
to defuse the crisis.
"Our first aim was to ensure that there were no
mass deportations following the unfortunate
incident on Saturday. Fortunately, the
authorities in Dubai were also convinced that
only those individuals who had indulged in the
violence directly should face any punitive
action," Talmiz Ahmad, Indian ambassador to the
United Arab Emirates (UAE), told The Hindu.
Mr. Ahmad pointed out that Saturday's violence
appeared "spontaneous" as the workers of the
construction company had not aired their
grievances either before officials of the
consulate, the Labour Ministry or members of
voluntary organisations who stay in touch with
the Indian community in the labour camps.
Contracts in focus
Analysts point out that labour laws in the UAE
have evolved, but more attention needed to be
paid on the contracts governing salaries and
working conditions of employees operating in the
economic free zones.
So far, the contract in the free zone, such as
the one existing in Jebel Ali, is signed only
between employers and employees. In general, its
copy is neither sent to the UAE's Labour Ministry
nor the Indian embassy or consulate for
attestation. Because the contract is usually
drafted in Arabic, Indian workers, unacquainted
with the language, end up signing it, often
without the full knowledge of its contents.
Consequently, they become parties to a binding
contract, on terms which they later find hard to
Sources in a voluntary organisation that operates
in labour camps, but did not wish to be
identified, said that unskilled workers in the
UAE earn a monthly salary anywhere between Dirham
650 (approximately Rs.7,000) and Dirham 800
(around Rs 8,500).
However, the rising inflation in the country is
drying up the saving capacity, especially among
blue collar expatriates, sharply increasing
financial and social pressures on them.
o o o
OCTOBER 31, 2007
Dubai strikers released from prison
Dubai authorities had not previously
indicated any workers had been imprisoned [AFP]
More than 4,000 labourers from south Asia, who
were imprisoned for taking part in a strike
against poor working conditions in Dubai, have
India's ambassador to the UAE said 160 workers,
including 90 Indian nationals, remained in
custody in Dubai's central prison after
authorities determined they had participated in
violence during the strike at the weekend.
Tahmiz Ahmad said most of the roughly 4,000 to
4,500 Asian workers who were released on
Wednesday had no remaining grievances with their
employers and had returned to work
Strikes and the formation of unions are illegal in the UAE.
Police and Dubai government officials could not
be immediately reached for comment.
Authorities had not previously announced that any
workers had been imprisoned after the weekend
Speaking to a local newspaper on Tuesday however
a senior labour ministry official did indicate
many of those involved in the strike could be
In the Indian capital Delhi on Wednesday, a
spokesman for India's ministry of external
affairs, Navtej Sarna, said officials there were
not aware of thousands of people having been
detained until Wednesday, and believed only about
140 people remained in custody Wednesday,
including 90 Indians.
There was no immediate explanation for the
discrepancy between the numbers from Indian
officials in the Emirates and in New Delhi.
Ali bin Abdullah al-Kaabi, the minister for
labour in the UAE, has called the workers'
behavior "uncivilised," saying they were
tampering with national security and endangering
The thousands of construction workers went on
strike on Saturday and Sunday over harsh working
conditions, including low pay and rising prices
While laborers have long complained about working
conditions in this Gulf their recent actions come
as contractors are struggling to find enough
workers, after a government amnesty prompted many
illegal Asian workers to leave Dubai.
Construction workers toil for long hours in the
desert emirate, where temperatures exceed 45C in
the summer, and humidity is stifling for most of
o o o
October 31, 2007
800 arrested workers remain in custody
By Sunita Menon and Wafa Issa, Staff Reporters
Dubai: Some 800 workers who took part in
Saturday's violent protest are still in custody,
said the Dubai Police chief.
The workers, from two different companies, were
detained on Sunday following the protests where
police vehicles and public property were
vandalised and stones were thrown.
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Chief of
Dubai Police told Gulf News that 4,200 workers
out of the 5000 detained workers went back to
work yesterday while the remaining number is
still in custody.
"We are continuing our investigations and the
workers who engaged in vandalism will face
prosecution as per UAE law," said Dahi adding
that solid evidence is available against more
than 40 suspects.
Among the remaining detained workers are
illegals, those who wish to cancel their work
permits and those who the companies no longer
wish to keep, he said.
Talmiz Ahmad, Indian Ambassador to the UAE said
workers directly involved in violence have been
identified and will be penalised. "There were 159
workers who were identified of which 90 were
Indians. They will be prosecuted."
He said most of the workers have no grievances
and want to go back to work. "We got in touch
with the company and they too did not have any
problem to take the workers back.
An undertaking stating that they will not be
involved in any violence in the future, respect
law and adhere to the law of the country was
taken from them," he said.
o o o
BBC News - Oct 28, 2007
Dubai construction workers strike
Thousands of foreign construction workers in the
Gulf state of Dubai have gone on strike over pay
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