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UAE is the worst: Labor rights violations escalated during the pandemic

Labor rights violations

At the time the world is trying to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, and amid the repeated economic shutdowns, labor rights violations have escalated in the Gulf states during 2020.

Marking the International Labor Day, which falls today, human rights statistical information monitored and analyzed by Business News Report (Bnreport) showed that all the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have showed an increase in labor violations.

According to statistics, the United Arab Emirates has topped the Gulf states in terms of the number of allegations of labor rights violations at the time the Coronavirus pandemic has hit hard the UAE economy due to the lack of tourists and low oil prices.

Labor rights violations

According to information issued by the British Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), seen by Bnreport, during pandemic, labor rights violations and intimidation of workers have increased. In addition, workers  have been denied of receiving their salaries and left vulnerable to health risks.

The report also mentioned that more than 273 business enterprises have been charged with allegations of widespread labor violations that took place in the Gulf countries during the period from March 2020 to February 2021.

BHRRC also said that the allegations, which multiplied greatly during the pandemic, are said to affect more than 48,000 migrant workers.

The stark increase in allegations of violations since the start of the pandemic has highlighted the lack of any strategies to deal with the situation of migrant workers in times of crisis.

The report also highlighted the necessity for companies that include migrant workers to work to stop labor violations, especially in light of the end of the lockdowns in many parts of the world.

UAE is the worst

The report stated that labor violations in the UAE were the highest among the Gulf states as the country accounts for the largest proportion of allegations of violations (39%).

According to the Business News Report’s follow-up, the number of incidents of abuse of migrant workers is much higher than we know as there are many violations that were not publicized.

Keep reading: Rights group: Workers abused by company owned to UAE ruling family member

About 20 million migrant workers work in the Gulf countries. They constitute 10% of all immigrants in the world.

The migrant workers make up a third of the total population of the region, and up to 90% of the manual labor force.

According to BHRRC’s statistics, the UAE accounted for the largest percentage of allegations of violations with nearly 106 complaints and allegations of violations.

In Saudi Arabia, complaints of violations has increased eight times. Forty-nine allegations were reported within a year, compared to only six in the previous year.

Several reports of violations

An investigation by the Sunday Telegraph last August revealed how hundreds of African migrants were detained in poor conditions in the kingdom.

The investigation was followed by a December 2020 report by Human Rights Watch that found Ethiopian migrant workers being held in a deportation center in Riyadh in degrading conditions.

In Qatar, which is carrying out a huge number of projects as the country will host the World Cup 2022, the total number of violations recorded is about 87.

The rate of reported labor rights violations peaked between April and July 2020. Non-payment of wages was the most frequent form of abuse, occurring in 68% of cases.

However, the reports of health and safety violations represented the largest increase compared to the previous year.

About 110 allegations related to dangerous working conditions, unsanitary accommodations, or lack of access to medical services for workers, increased by 688%.

Sectors most affected

In a related context, construction workers were affected in a third of the cases. One in every ten cases reported abuse of hostility sector cases.

Transport, cleaning and maintenance also had a share of labor abuse. As well as, security and logistics workers were among the employment sectors worst affected.

In one out of every five cases, workers were burdened with loans to get jobs or had to lend to cover their needs when wages were delayed during the pandemic.

Workers reported filing complaints through official channels in 40 cases. In only nine cases, the complaining was successful.

Bad conditions

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on working and living conditions for millions of migrants across the Gulf,” said Isobel Archer, director of the gulf program at Business Resource Center.

“While all Gulf states took steps to mitigate the economic and health impacts of the virus on workers, the high number of reported cases indicate they were insufficient to overcome decades of government inaction”.


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