Hidden Secrets: Origins of the labour class, informal contracts and policy.

Hidden Secrets: Origins of the labour class, informal contracts and policy.

A large part of the population of Dubai is manifested in the form of an influx of illegal immigrant workers, from countries of South Asia, namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. According to certain estimates, close to half a million migrant construction workers live in Dubai. There are a number of companies in Dubai, the sole purpose of which is to recruit these migrant labourers to work in Dubai. These companies have agents, that travel to the poor countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and they seek to final people in the rural areas of these countries, in search of better opportunities in life. These workers are promised a certain minimum wage, however their actual salaries are sometimes, not even half of what they are promised. They are made to sign ‘false’ contracts, and once they reach Dubai, these contracts are subsequently torn up, and their passports are seized and hoarded by these agents, who basically become their owners (for the lack of a better word). It is a mild form of slavery, that violates several basic human rights. The workers are ‘in some sense’ imprisoned or confined to these labor camps, that eerily resemble, military concentration camps, so that the owners of the companies are able to exercise complete control over their movement and lifestyle. At times, these agencies charge them with a visa fee, which is an exorbitant amount close to the likes of a few thousand dollars, which it takes them months to pay off. So, they often end up having to wait quite a while before they can actually send any money home, which is the reason they came to Dubai in the first place, under the false promise of a better life and financial stability, neither of which are achieved, in fact one may say, the situation takes a turn towards the opposite direction.


  1. Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010.
  2. MailOnline, Sam. “The Side of Dubai That They DON’T Want Tourists to See: Photos Show Desperate Conditions Endured by Migrant Labourers Forced to Work in 50C Heat for a Pittance.” Mail Online. December 4, 2014. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2859734/The-Dubai-DON-T-want-tourists-Photos-desperate-conditions-endured-migrant-labourers-forced-work-50C-heat-pittance.html.

3 Comments on “Hidden Secrets: Origins of the labour class, informal contracts and policy.

  1. It is shocking to hear that Dubai, the dream future city of the 21st century, actually has such a dark side behind its success. When I hear the story of Dubai I could immediately connect it with Europeans’ exploitation of African resources and labour behind their success and it is very disappointing to see how history has already begun to repeat itself within such a short period of time and in this modern age. What are the responses of the United Nations toward such inhumane acts and how do the governments of the countries being exploited react? Are there any adequate measures being taken to at the very least decelerate such behaviors?

    happy holidays 🙂

  2. The United Nations is well aware of the Human Rights Violations in Dubai, and adequate pressure has been given to alleviate the plight of these people. However, the effectiveness of the United Nation’s pressure in the middle east has always been questionable. As the middle eastern countries, mostly the UAE have always been notorious for functioning as autonomous units and manipulating the law towards their own monetary gain. There have been claims that the laws passed by the government to protect the rights of the laborers are in name only and are never really executed, or some loopholes are found in their enforcement. For example, a law was passed in Dubai, in response to raised awareness over the plight of these laborers, that if the temperature, ever goes above fifty degrees Celsius, the workers must stop working and go inside and rest. However, according to reports, the temperature, has never gone above fifty degrees Celsius after that day, at least officially. I have mentioned this statistic in one of my posts as well.

  3. From what I’ve have read in my research was a series of specific action plan to raise awareness on human rights-related labourissues was outlined by the Labour Ministry of UAE at the beginning of 2009. Also a newly-established facility at Dubai Police department which monitors human trafficking also has the mandate to address workers’ complaints. Any idea of which these policies were effective or not?

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