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Migrant Responsibilities: UAE Publishes New Handbook for Guest Workers

On February 14, 2010

The UAE has just released a handbook for migrant workers which outlines their responsibilities while they are working in the country, according to this article in the Khaleej Times. The book, 'The Worker: Rights and Duties' is to be distributed to workers, NGOs and media outlets and will be available in English, Urdu, Chinese, Arabic, Persian and Tagalog.

The booklet gives some mention of the rights of workers, for example the right to religious freedom and to file complaints against anyone who abuses them. However, from this article it seems that the overwhelming focus of the document is on the responsibility of the worker to abide by the laws of the UAE and to refrain from making any trouble while they are in the country. For example, workers can 'demand rights' but they should not do this through sit-ins or demonstrations (workers are still forbidden to unionise in the UAE). Migrants must also take responsibility for making sure that they understand their contracts properly before they take up employment in the UAE, because ignorance of terms and conditions of employment will not be accepted by the state if they try to complain against unfair treatment. This seems somewhat harsh given that so many migrant workers have a low level of literacy and are all too often duped by corrupt recruiters or contractors into agreements that are unfair, and which they have no hope of understanding.

It is fair enough for a country to lay down rules for its guest workers to abide by, but by focusing on the responsibilities of migrant workers, is the UAE simply sidestepping its duty to protect the millions of low-paid workers from the developing world that its economy relies on?

We will try to get hold of the original document and see!