Dubai has pretty swanky five star hotels and skyscrapers beyond belief. With a mere population of just over 2 million, and less than 10 million for the whole of the UAE combined, who is under the lavish constructions? Migrant workers, especially from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and from parts of South East Asia are wholly behind this, yet are rarely credited for it. In fact, what goes on behind closed doors of some of these construction companies is disgusting.Burj_Dubai_Construction_Workers_on_4_June_2007

Many of these foreign workers come from poorer countries and therefore look to the prosperous Gulf countries for work in order to have a better chance at earning an income and supporting their families abroad. Advertisements are often promising with reasonable paid salaries and better living conditions than their former country. However, quite often for many workers this is not the case and on arrival, passports are confiscated, the working conditions are vile – with several people sharing a room and toilets, with no concern for their well being, as well as wages highly reduced from what was promised, and quite often, not paid for months at a time. The contract is effectively destroyed thereon and they are subjected to a binding contract of hell as I call it.

They need the money badly, but at the same time are subject to a horrific new life. Migrants workers make up a majority (approximately 80%) of the resident population of the UAE, and account for 90% of its workforce, so to think that there is a dark side to the luxury holidays that attracts foreigners across the entire world, particularly the West, is daunting as to just how bad of a life the workers behind it are living. Human trafficking, slavery and torture of migrant workers is not uncommon. The fact that the majority of the UAE itself is simply foreign workers points out the fact that there is often a clear separation between Arab nationals and foreign workers, despite many being Muslim themselves and therefore distinguished by race.

Foreign workers in RiyadhMany have worked most of their life there, yet will never be granted citizenship on the basis that they are not a national of the country. It is due to this that their rights, often scarce are not fully recognised, and therefore rarely enforced, even though practices like confiscating their passports are illegal in the states. They are essentially treated as slaves by certain companies and quite often seen as lesser than their Arab counterparts. There are Arabs who silently disagree with their treatment by their counterparts, though can rarely speak out, or in fact are simply not aware of the harsh scale of it. There are maids who work in the household setting of some families in Saudi/UAE and there have been cases where they have been beaten, tortured and denied their wages, as well as some female maids having been assaulted by the male householder. Quite recently, an Indian maid had her hand chopped off by her Saudi employer, and she has claimed that she has been denied food and forced into long hours of work, as well as having been abused. The overwhelming majority of Saudi/UAE citizens are employed in the government sector, and it is therefore jobs such as construction and cleaning in 50 degrees heat left to the migrant workers, who receive no enforced rights to basically ‘do the jobs that nobody wants to do’.

Migrant workers are human too and deserve to work in the same conditions you would expect a non migrant worker to work in, They are not slaves! The ones from South Asian countries are often seen as 2nd class citizens and not treated as respectfully as those from the West and fellow Arab countries They cannot speak out on fear of being punished, so it’s time to speak out for them. This is a serious human rights violation so let’s push for their rights to be regulated and recognized, with the salaries promised non negotiable after they arrive and the freedom to leave as they will if they are not being treated right. They built what is Dubai today, for example, so let them be recognized for it and live as a full citizen of Earth. It’s sad, as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are beautiful countries, yet this is disturbed by the lack of humanity for the foreign workers. Of course, not all employees think this way,  nor would many citizens agree with their treatment.. but those working in these conditions are silenced far too often….


Thanks for reading, please share and SUBSCRIBE!

Bushra 😀

TWITTER: @BushraSpeaks |




  1. Pingback: Migrant Labour in UAE and Saudi Arabia -

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