Denial of Guest Worker Rights in Dubai

Posted on November 27, 2006


Dubai may be the boomtown of the Middle East, but is it violating the rights of foreign workers?  Islam is very clear on the rights of workers–whether foreign or domestic. On the Day of Judgment, the Prophet (sa) will be a witness against “one who employs a laborer and gets the full work done by him but does not pay him his wages.” (Abu Hurayrah, Sahih al Bukhari, hadith no. 3.430. It appears that these rights given by Islam to workers may be currently violated by some employers in Dubai. Read excerpts from Brian Ross’ 20/20 script. The video of the whole interview may be viewed on ABC’s 20/20 website here:

November 17, 2006

[…] Behind the glitzy world of Dubai are some 500,000 foreign workers who human rights groups say live in virtual enslavement.

Sarah Leah: You are working in a system where you are not really free to leave your job. You actually need employers’ consent to change jobs. You’re working in a system where your passport is withheld. And really, if you displease your employer, you are going to find yourself on a plane right back to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh or India. Most of the workers live in labor camps an hour outside the city in the desert, in a place called Sonapaur, which means city of gold. There’s little gold to be found here. The men putting up the world’s finest buildings live six to eight, sometimes 12, to a room. […]

Dr. Anwar Gargash [was] the one and only government official provided to speak with 20/20.

Brian Ross: We were at camps this week that are described as pretty good, and they’re quite squalid.

Dr. Anwar Gargash: Okay.

Brian Ross: 8, 12 men in a room, working 12 hour days […]

Dr. Anwar Gargash: Okay.

Brian Ross: Is Dubai proud of that?

Dr. Anwar Gargash: No, of course not.

Workers: 600, 600 dirhams, about $163 dollars, a month. On average, less than a dollar an hour. And even that, Human Rights Watch found, is routinely withheld months at a time.

Sarah Leah: It’s considered a way to make sure your worker doesn’t run away so you kind of owe him money to keep him on a short leash. The work in Dubai goes on day and night, usually two, twelve hour shifts, six days a week. A pace Human Rights Watch says has led to a huge death toll.

Hadi Ghaemi: Hundreds are dying, especially falling from these high rises every year.

Brian Ross: You are saying hundreds are dying?

Hadi Ghaemi: Hundreds are dying. And under the law in Dubai and the entire United Arab Emirates, there are no unions allowed, strikes are illegal, strikers can be fired and sent home. […]
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