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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

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Willing slaves

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

After the terrible accident at Dubai Airport yesterday in which five Asian labourers were killed, the BBC has come out with an article worth reading that highlights the main reasons for the plight of expat workers in the Gulf. I would guess that workers in Dubai are probably slightly better off than their equivalents in other parts of the Gulf like Bahrain, Kuwait, and of course Saudi Arabia. (And I do like the photo from AP above which illustrates well the vast difference in lifestyle between the expat workers and local citizens).

From the BBC:

The future prosperity of [Dubai] and its ability to create headline-catching superlatives for its ventures is dependent upon guest workers as well as on the flamboyant leadership which commissions the ideas.

Yet the majority of these employees have no voice - not even when it comes to their own safety.

Such workers are often the main breadwinners for their families back home. As such they are not in a position to lose their jobs through raising questions over on-site procedure.

Dissent is not encouraged in the Gulf. Expatriate unions are not allowed.

Safety on construction sites and more broadly within the workplace is currently a subject of debate in the UAE and one which is raised in the press from time to time.

Similarly the local newspapers often carry stories of construction workers allegedly not being paid for months on end.

They are not allowed to move jobs and if they leave the country to go home they will almost certainly lose the money they say they are owed.

The names of the construction companies concerned are not published in the newspapers for fear of offending the often powerful individuals who own them. (Continued)

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