International human rights reports have revealed the extent of labor rights violations committed by the UAE against migrant workers, which is contrary to what the UAE promotes to the Gulf and the world.
According to reports by international human rights organizations, the UAE practices inhumane practices against foreign workers, knowing that they constitute 80% of the country’s population. These violations increased during the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are many aspects of workers’ violations against foreign expatriates, including freedom of expression and the layoff of dozens of workers in its companies, and the reduction of the salaries of the rest of them.
UAE and migrant workers rights
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, confirm that, during the Coronavirus crisis, workers have faced violations to laws that oblige the employer to pay the expenses of recruiting the worker, issuing travel visas and the costs of post-arrival procedures such as medical tests and issuing a special residence permit.
With the outbreak of the virus, and the subsequent economic repercussions, companies began, under a government cover, a massive wave of layoffs for expatriate workers, who became besieged by disease, delayed salaries, and their inability to afford travel expenses.
Companies in the UAE dispensed with thousands of migrant workers, and reduced the salaries of the rest of them, while at the same time, major companies reduced employment at the maximum pace, which prompted a coalition of human rights organizations and labor unions, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and others to direct sharp criticism to the Government of Abu Dhabi.
The organizations also strongly criticized the decisions of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation in the UAE, which authorizes companies affected by the Coronavirus to reorganize the work structure through steps including granting unpaid leave, temporarily reducing wages, and reducing wages permanently.
Dubai Expo 2020
New reports reveal the UAE’s involvement in violations from another angle against foreign workers during the Dubai Expo 2020, which will be held next October for 2021, with the participation of about 190 countries.
A leading rights group condemned the company that runs the German pavilion at the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 for working with an Emirati company accused of serious abuses against migrant workers.
The German pavilion, which will be one of the main attractions of the fair, will showcase German innovations and solutions in the field of sustainability.
Koelnmesse, the operator of the German pavilion, has signed a framework agreement with the UAE’s Transguard Group to provide security, cleaning and laundry services during the Dubai Expo.
Meanwhile, the London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) confirmed that the Emirati company had committed several violations against migrant workers.
The Emirati company alleges that Koelnmesse did not provide satisfactory evidence of human rights due diligence prior to signing the contract.
The Bahrain Human Rights Committee said that the Emirati company withheld the passports and wages of migrant workers, paid wages less than the minimum wage, imposed forced changes to contracts, deducted end-of-service benefits and issued termination without notice.
The committee also accused the Emirati company of not providing adequate personal protective equipment during the outbreak of the Coronavirus over the past period.
“It is concerning that as the German parliament prepares to adopt a milestone human rights due diligence law at home, a German company overseas declines to set out what steps it took to ensure migrant worker rights would be protected,” Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager at the BHRRC, said.
“Koelnmesse has chosen to engage a company with a questionable human rights record, whose workers have repeatedly told human rights NGOs, activists and the media corroborating reports of their appalling treatment.”
“All companies have a responsibility to conduct thorough, meaningful human rights due diligence when entering into contracts with business partners or service providers, and should be prepared to disclose safeguards to mitigate abuses.”
The BHRRC called on the organizers of the Dubai Expo and the German pavilion, to award contracts to companies that have clear commitments to workers’ rights, and to impose strong law that protect migrant workers.