Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East

Return to research Posted on Jan 4 2010

While we are not against progress, innovation and growth, we feel that during all the excitement about the opening of the the Burj Khalifa (formerly known as Burj Dubai), it is forgotten that those who built it, mainly south-Asian migrant workers, have paid a high price for this ambitious project. Those workers toiled 12 hour a day, 6 days a week for pay as little as $4 per day.

The workers continuously protested against the poor working conditions and low pay, despite the fact that strikes and unionizing are illegal according to UAE law. In 2004, thousands of workers protested before the Ministry of Labour, only to be dispersed by police and threatened with mass deportations. Sporadic protests continued in 2005, with the largest labor protest in the history of the UAE in September 2005, when 7,000 workers staged a three-hour protest. In March 2006, 2,500 workers rioted at the Burj Khalifa site, demanding a raise in their pay. In response to this, protesters were once again threatened with mass deportation. In November 2007, workers at the Burj Khalifa site held a strike again, demanding better living conditions and pay.

Those workers are willing to break the law to protest against their conditions because they are, simply put, abysmal. Arabtec, which built the Burj Khalifa/Dubai houses its workers in filthy labor camps. One dweller of the Arabtec labor camp described it this way: “The latrines are so filthy we cannot use them, we are so disgusted. The roads are full of garbage and waterlogged. Living and moving about here is a great problem. We suffer greatly”. A BBC investigation came to similar conclusion about the overcrowded labor camps that overflowed with sewage.

A Human Rights Watch report from November 2006 about construction workers in the UAE found that “on average a migrant construction worker earns $175 a month (the average per capita income in the UAE is $2,106 a month).” The report found several abuses that construction workers suffer in the UAE, including “unpaid or extremely low wages, several years of indebtedness to recruitment agencies for fees that UAE law says only employers should pay, the withholding of employees’ passports, and hazardous working conditions that result in apparently high rates of death and injury.”

Research, UAE, Working conditions

22 thoughts on “Behind the Glamorous Facade of the Burj Khalifa

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MideastYouth and maximal is me, Migrant Rights. Migrant Rights said: Behind the Glamorous Facade of the Burj Khalifa http://bit.ly/7aGh76 #MigrantRights #burjDubai [...]

  2. [...] was originally posted on Migrant-Rights.org Retweet Share on Facebook Migrant Workers, UAE Report this post Share This Print Trackback [...]

  3. [...] earned a measly UK£4.34 a day, and laborers earned UK£2.84 at the site in 2006. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, ‘the workers were housed in abysmal conditions, their pay was often [...]

  4. Lindsay says:

    This is typical of the wealthy classes of the current World. Their cats live & eat much better than the labourers of this building.

    But to state the bleeding obvious…the world at large & the Governments where these poor people come from DO NOT CARE!!!

  5. AKM Mohsin says:

    It’s very good article

  6. [...] mohammad’s ascension. it’s an incredibly beautiful building, though unsurprisingly cemented with blood. i should be reading for my thesis probably. in about 15 mins we will instead fly to ooty for a few [...]

  7. EPSE says:

    Well if they can’t control their population then human slavery will.

    The reason why the average salaries are under horse ass in india and other asian countries cause of the number of people. Theres 2000 people for 1 job in india then what the fuck do you expect.

    Until they cant control their numbers they aint better than animals and they deserve to be used as slaves.

    • Danny says:

      Totally agree, lets get rid of the all white council estates in the UK too, they never work and cost the tax payer!

  8. Frank says:

    I agree with EPSE. Using as slaves those who were born, not of their own volition, into a world lackingthe proper resources to provide for them seems the best course of action. They deserve this punishment, and the punishment is just. I applaud you EPSE on your bravery for saying what needs to be said.

    You are a truly a luminary.

  9. [...] Ναι, στο #2 έχεις μια ιδιωτική κατοικία, το σπίτι ενός πυροβολημένου Ινδού μεγιστάνα που θα ζει με 600 υπηρέτες σε έναν ουρανοξύστη 170 μέτρων και 35000 τετραγωνικών. Επίσης: Το Wynn (το οποίο το σπιτόσκυλο εφωτογράφησε εκ του σύνεγγυς ούτως) κόστισε περισσότερο από τα διπλά λεφτά απ’ το πολυθρύλητο ψηλότερο ουρανοξύστη στη Γη. Είδες τι ωραία, όταν στα φτάχνουν σκλάβοι; [...]

  10. [...] endure dangerous conditions on-site and often had their pay and passports witheld. Have a look at this previous post on Migrant Rights for more on the Burj al Khalifa’s tawdry back-story. One migrant worker was reported to have [...]

  11. [...] the suicide of a migrant worker who jumped to his death from Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, has shed light on this alarming phenomenon. Among Indian [...]

  12. [...] In 2006, their anger boiled over when 2,500 workers at the construction site of Burj Khalifa rioted, fed up with laboring 12-hour days 6 days a week for as little as $4 per day (strikes and unions [...]

  13. [...] say there’s a company in the United Arab Emirates that hires people to build a new skyscraper for them, but only pays them enough money for food and [...]

  14. [...] [Burj Khalifa's] workers continuously protested against the poor working conditions and low pay, despite the fact that strikes and unionizing are illegal according to UAE law. in 2004, thousands of workers protested before the Ministry of Labour, only to be dispersed by police and threatened with mass deportations. Sporadic protests continued in 2005, with the largest labor protest in the history of the UAE in September 2005, when 7,000 workers staged a three-hour protest. in March 2006, 2,500 workers rioted at the Burj Khalifa site, demanding a raise in their pay. in response to this, protesters were once again threatened with mass deportation. in November 2007, workers at the Burj Khalifa site held a strike again, demanding better living conditions and pay. [Source] [...]

  15. [...] “Behind the Glamorous Facade of the Burj Khalifa”. Migrant-Rights.org. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 6 January [...]

  16. [...] By 1931, only 5 People died during the less than two years it took to throw up the Empire State Building.  Take this with a pinch of salt–the times were fraught with number-fudging of all types.  Despite a few amazing snaps of pre-war American determination, a building like the Empire doesn’t rise like that without a sordid back story.  Look at the world’s tallest in Dubai; it’s a futuristic behemoth built on the toil of SE Asian laborers that would make the slave-builders of the ancient Pyramids look like lazy Union scabs. [...]

  17. aszalam says:

    I think, no I am sure, assholes like EPSE and Frank were the Western/Arab passporholding, project Managers at the Burj.

    I bet they were also the professionaly incompetent members of the project whose salaries could never have been possible in their own country, much of which is going through a Finanacial Crisis because of their hedonistic lifestyle and complete apathy for the rest of the word.

  18. [...] I urge you to also read the articles (two of many) covering the human rights violations, etc. in Migrant Rights and The Guardian. Here is also a general investigation by the BBC on workers conditions in [...]

  19. Emre says:

    people like u should be arrested and condemned to slavery for a year than u would understand ! those people didnt choose to starve!! so what? is it their fault that their government sucks? its so easy to talk like this for u cuz u re an ignorant fuck who thinks everyone is born in the same standards as u do! I wish you will fall into the position of the workers that worked there one day! and understand your miserable life worths nothing! those arabs have tens and hundreds of cars, houses for one person! they could easily provide good life for the workers but they dont because they are sellfish! they can see their worker starving to death but they would still get out of their rolls royce and watch them without any emotion! people like u should go to hell!

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Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East