Over 100 labourers have been stranded without pay in a camp in Abu Dhabi for over six months after their employer went bust, according to this report in The National. Local charity organisations have stepped in to provide food for the stranded workers, who have no valid papers and no means to return to their home countries. Electricity and water supplies are unpredictable, and workers who fell sick had no access to healthcare until local NGOs intervened.
The construction workers, who come from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, have become the latest victims of the UAE's economic slowdown, which has brought the real estate and construction sector to a grinding halt. The workers reported that their pay started to become irregular after it became apparent that their employer had put projects on hold, and then dried up altogether.
According to a representative from the Indian Embassy:
“They were left to fend for themselves. They had no idea what was happening...They have no employer, no sponsor. They are just languishing in the camp.”
The Indian Embassy intervened after the burden of feeding the workers became too much for local charity organisations, and has provided food supplies for 20 days.
With no money or signs of assistance for repatriation, workers are unable to support their families back home. Some have even lost contact altogether:
Sugriv Sharma, from Bihar, is no longer aware of the whereabouts of his wife and children, after they were evicted eight months ago from their rental home because of non-payment of rent. Kishore Rathore, 42, from Gujarat, has been unable to attend his father’s funeral. His father died three months ago but, in the Hindu tradition, the son must perform the last rites. The family has been unable to do without Mr Rathore’s presence, so his father’s ashes remain in an urn in his home.
Lawyers in the UAE report that there has been a massive rise in the number of cases of non-payment of wages since the financial crisis began.