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Fighting for rights in Dubai

The ultimate dream for a Malayali is to go to the “Gulf”. For people back home, Gulf is a place where anyone from the educated to the uneducated can get a job, send dirhams back home, and raise the quality of life of their family. Recently a friend was starting a business in Dubai and told me about the problems facing workers there. Whatever he told is mentioned in this New York Times article on the migrant workers in Dubai.

A growing number have resorted to suicide rather than return home with empty pockets: last year, 84 South Asians committed suicide in Dubai, according to the Indian Consulate here, up from 70 in 2004.

Mr. Kumaran, who earns 550 dirhams every month, or about $150, as a laborer, sends home almost half his earnings and lives on the equivalent of roughly $60 a month. That is barely enough to pay for food and cigarettes and using his cellphone from time to time. But he is not sure how he will repay the loan he took to get here.

“If I’d stayed in India and worked just as hard as I do now, I could have made the same money,” he said. “And I wouldn’t have needed to get a loan to come here.”[In Dubai, an Outcry From Asians for Workplace Rights]

Unable to take the abuse of the employers anymore, these immigrants took out protests, some of which were violent.

But the mass action on Tuesday was the most significant of its kind. Hundreds of workers building the Burj Dubai skyscraper chased security guards and broke into offices, smashing computers, scattering files and wrecking cars and construction machines. When they returned to work the next day, demanding better pay and improved working conditions, thousands of laborers building an airport terminal across town also laid down their tools, demanding better conditions, too. The workers also halted work on Thursday, until a settlement was negotiated.

Last time some Malayalees in Baharin and UAE took to the streets to protest and as a result many recruiting companies decided not to hire people from Kerala

There are many angles to this story. We are so used to fighting for our rights in Kerala that we think it will work everywhere. In countries where human rights do not exist, such protests may result in loss of job and deportation. At the same time, these countries require migrant workers to fuel their economy and do jobs which their citizens are not willing to do. Then there are people from less fortunate backgrounds who are willing to take the abuse for a good living and they can displace the protesting Malayalees.

2 Responses to Fighting for rights in Dubai

  1. D. March 30, 2006 at 8:44 am #

    Not trying to be picky but thought I’d point out “immigrants” would be incorrect since UAE doesn’t really have an immigration system.

    It would be more appropriate to say ‘expatriates’ as most of us used the term there.

    Cheers!

  2. JK March 31, 2006 at 10:06 am #

    D,

    Thanks. You are right.

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