Keywords: Dubai, human rights, migrant workers, poverty.
Dubai is presented as a luxury destination and might be called paradise or dream for travelers, because of its spectacular tall buildings, shopping malls, hot weather, gardens and lots of money. However, less than half of tourists know what conceals behind Dubai abundant image. Behind the glitz and glamour of Dubai often lies a murky world of exploitation and an immigrant work force living on the breadline (Allen, 2009). Systematic violations of migrant workersâ€™ human rights and striking health disparities among these populations in the United Arab Emirates are the norm in member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Sonmez et al., 2010). In general, about 90 percent of the UAE workforce consists of migrant workers that daily are mistreated.
In the late 1960s in Dubai, oil was discovered and it was beginning of changes. However, in comparison to the other UAE countries, Dubai had small amount of oil resources. This is why the government decided to use money to attract foreign tourists to boost Dubaiâ€™s economy. Dubai started to grow rapidly in population number and in construction amount.
However, not for everyone Dubai is a dream city to work and live in. Report of Emirates Centre Human Rights (2012) state that international human rights organizations have described some of the worst examples of labor abuses for the lowest income groups living in the UAE. Firstly, the most extreme nature of exploitation is the result of the Kafala sponsorship program, which allocates disproportionate power to sponsors and employers in determining the legal residence of workers. Sonmez et al., (2010) state that the construction boom requires and is driven by immigrant workers and low labor costs. Kafala system is the only way how workers could residence and work within country. According to ECHR (2012) two of the biggest concerns relate specifically to debt bondage and the confiscation of passports. It has been common practice for employment agencies to charge high recruitment fees to workers in their home countries under false promises of high wages. After arriving workers live in places which are at very poor condition, work 12 hours a day under heat, exhausted and dehydrated. In some cases they are paid far less than was promised in other cases they do not get their salary or any medical care. Unfortunately, the government has no set rules in place to effectively protect immigrant workers (Akouris, 2014). As a result this leads to mistreatment and abuse of human rights.
Another example that is not new phenomenon is exploitation of domestic workers. Domestic workers represent between 5 and 10% of the UAEâ€™s 4.6 million population, depending on the source of information (The Middle East Institute, 2010). Mostly, these are women who travel to Gulf countries and work as housekeepers or nannies. As with construction workers, the kafala system fuels trafficking and forced labor for domestic laborers, who rely on employment agencies and brokers and enter contractual bondage with employers, thereby exposing themselves to exploitation and abuse (Mahdavi, 2010). In some case it might be even worse, Sonez et al., (2010) state that domestic servants are not covered by either the 1980 UAE Labor Law or the 2007 Draft Labor Law and so are not entitled to labor protection; domestic servants are not considered employees, households where they work are not considered workplaces, private persons who hire them are not considered employers, and so lab our inspectors are forbidden from visiting private households. This makes them unprotected from exploitation and abuse and might lead to another Dubaiâ€™s problems such as sexual exploitation.
Pacione (2005) states that Scores of taxi drivers, maids, hotel and restaurant employees and entertainment personnel were deemed necessary to meet growing tourist demand. As a result of lenient laws and entertainment not easily found in neighbouring countries, Dubai has become a sex tourism destination. Prostitution in Dubai makes approximately 30 percent of the economy. Moreover, Jazeera (2009) note that many sex workers in the UAE have been trafficked into the country for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and labor to meet increased demand.
It is obviously, that Dubai is good place to live and work only for wealthy citizens. The exploitation and abuse of migrant laborers is well documented, yet there is a troubling paucity of literature examining their plight with regard to health care, a basic tenet of human rights (Sonez et al., 2010). This particular situation in the United Arab Emirates is not new and needs to get more attention. Why this rich and luxury tourist destination mistreats its workers that have built paradise in desert.
Sonmez, S., Apostopoulos, Y., Tran, D. and Rentrope, S. (2010) Human Rights and health disparities for migrant workers in the UAE [online]. [Accessed on 3 May 2015]. Available at: <http://www.hhrjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2013/06/Sonmez21.pdf>
Echr (2012) Migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [online]. [Accessed on 3 May 2015]. Available at:< http://www.echr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ECHR-Report-on-Migrant-Workers-in-the-UAE.pdf>