Emirati paper: UAE "unfairly" targeted for migrant rights abuses

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Jun 15 2010

A recent editorial in Gulf News, the UAE's most popular English-language newspaper, lavishly praised the UAE's treatment of migrant workers, ignoring the egregious human rights violation migrant workers are subjected to in the Emirates.

The editorial highlighted the International Labor Organization's praise of the UAE's Wage Protection System (WPS), stating that it is a model to be followed by other countries. The WPS has indeed helped to insure that documented migrant workers get their wages on time in the UAE, although cases of laborers going unpaid are still common.

The editorial goes on to say:

For years, the UAE was unfairly the target of media campaigns in the West with regard to the conditions under which low-skilled labourers work. It is refreshing to see the country receive credit for its efforts to protect the rights of these labourers.

The UAE has been appropriately targeted for the violation of migrant workers' human rights by the media and human rights groups, including Migrant-Rights.org. The UAE offers little protection to migrant workers, as it ties them to local sponsors making them completely dependent on them for their livelihood and vulnerable to exploitation. The UAE forbids unionizing and strikes, and does not offer migrant workers minimum wage. The UAE doesn't even bother enforcing its own laws when it comes to passport confiscations and altering of work contracts, which workers are subjected to quite often. Working conditions of construction workers are extremely poor and workers are often exploited. Domestic workers are not included under the realm of the country's labor laws, they are not given a weekly rest day, their work hours are practically unlimited and they are not paid for overtime.

The editorial ends with this infuriating statement:

As UAE officials have often maintained, what is being done is not something we have had to do, but it is in line with the county's social and humanitarian values.

The UAE is subjected to pressure from the U.S., sending countries of workers, international labor organization and international and local human rights organizations to improve its protection of migrant workers, which is extremely poor. The UAE is not based on "social and humanitarian values" but on exploitation of slave labor from the Third World. The UAE is a country where expatriates must be deported if they contract an infection disease, blue-collar workers are placed in segregated and overly populated labor camps, and where Emiratis serve one year in jail for burning a Pakistani man to death, while workers get the same sentence for iron scrap theft. The Gulf News' perception of Emirati exceptionalism is based on anything but facts.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East