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Migrant construction workers strike in Dubai

This sounds like the real Dubai story to me.

Odd, then, that financial stories are obscuring it.

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jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Those workers are often shipped in from the worst of the third world, places like Bangladesh, and forced to work in inhumane conditions for almost no pay. It's slave labor. They're quite brave for standing up to the emeratis. I wish there was some way we could show our support for them.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Ironically, many members of the ownership society over there, in that Libertarian Paradise, have come to have a real understanding of the unfairness of it all:

New York Times
February 11, 2009

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sofia, a 34-year-old Frenchwoman, moved here a year ago to take a job in advertising, so confident about Dubai’s fast-growing economy that she bought an apartment for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

Now, like many of the foreign workers who make up 90 percent of the population here, she has been laid off and faces the prospect of being forced to leave this Persian Gulf city — or worse.

“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Over at Angry Bear run75441 left this comment:

For those with an interest in Dubai and its EX-Pat and immigrant Labor Force may be interested in reading this: The Dark Side of Dubai.

Karen Andrews Story

"'When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remained. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. If you have any outstanding debts that aren't covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.

'Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment.'

Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking. Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him.

'He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn't face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him.'

Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, 'but it was so humiliating. I've never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I've never...'

She peters out. Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation.

'Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he's out, somehow.'

Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal. She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.

'The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems," Karen says at last. 'Nothing. This isn't a city, it's a con-job. They lure you in telling you it's one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it's a medieval dictatorship.'"