u n i o n v i e w
M a y 2 0 1 1
Control, was quoted telling The National newspaper.
“We cannot keep people here who create disorder. Their pres- ence in the country is dangerous and thereore we need to take action against them.”
(1)In partnership with Korea’s Samsung Corp. and Belgianbuilder Besix, Arabtec built the Burj Khalia, the world’stallest building. Completed in 2010, the steel and glass spirerises 828 metres above downtown Dubai and houses the Armani hotel, where rooms start at $650-a-night.In both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, migrants makeup the overwhelming majority o the population. According to the government gures, just 825,000 o the4.1 million people living in the UAE are citizens. Dubai’smigrant population dipped when the country was rocked bythe nancial crash o 2009, which roze $582 billion wortho inrastructure projects and led to thousands o migrantsbeing thrown out o work. Across the UAE, however, 70percent o the population are migrants. A census published in Qatar in October 2010 showed thepopulation o the gas-rich state had more than doubled in sixyears to 1.69 million, but native Qataris number only around200,000. In the labour market, the demographics are evenmore striking: just six percent o the workorce is Qatari. Among the world’s richest people, Qatari and Emirati citizensdon’t drive taxis, wait on tables or install plumbing. Theireconomies are dependent on the manual labour o migrantworkers hailing mostly rom south Asia, the Philippines ormore recently East Arica.Qatar can expect exponential growth in the migrant popula-tion during the run-up to the World Cup when inrastructureinvestments are expected to top $100 billion. Some esti-mates suggest up to one million additional workers will beThe workers need their employers’ authorization to switch job, and companies requently hold migrants’ passports toensure they don’t leave the country beore the end o theircontacts. Governments in both Qatar and the UAE havetaken steps recently to improve the migrants’ situation, butapplication o new laws is patchy, and lengthy court proce-dures can leave the workers waiting or months without paywhen they do seek legal redress.In desperation at ill-treatment or unpaid wages, somemigrants simply abscond. They nd themselves in limbo,banned rom legal work in their host nation and without thepapers or unds to secure a passage home. Ali, a tailor rom the Indian state o Uttar Pradesh, has beenearning a pittance working in the black market or over ayear-and-a-hal since running away rom a sponsor whoreused to pay his wages.
“I went to the company to get my passport but they reused,”
he explains as he stands in line or a ladle o vegetable curryand yellow rice rom a backstreet soup kitchen run by a localcharity.
“Now, I just want to go home.”
Trade unions are eectively banned under the laws o theUAE and Qatar, so migrant workers have little chance toorganize protest against their conditions.When they do, they can expect a harsh response. Some3,000 workers at the giant Arabtec construction companystruck in January or an increase in monthly salaries thatwere reportedly as low 650 dirham ($175). The authori-ties’ response was uncompromising. Seventy Bangladeshiworkers accused o instigating the strike were arrested and,according to Bangladeshi authorities, deported rom Dubai.
“We intend to deport the workers whose involvement is proven,”
Col Mohammed al Mur, director general o theDubai Police General Department o Legal and Disciplinary