The following is an appeal issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission on November 1, 2007:
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that more than 4,000 workers, mostly from South Asian countries, are being deported from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates following a protest demonstration on October 28 seeking improvement in their working conditions. Most of the workers are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Some 2,000 workers are reportedly going to be retrenched and the deportation process has already started. The AHRC urges you to immediately intervene in this large scale deportation.
According to media reports, thousands of construction workers went on protest on Sunday, October 28, 2007 over harsh working conditions and labour shortages. The Ministry of Labour and employers of the construction and petroleum companies involved instructed them to stop the disruption and threatened to deport them otherwise without paying their dues, including wages and gratuity.
It is also reported that more than 1,500 workers have already been served with retrenchment letters and cancellation of contracts from their sponsors. These are mostly non-unionized workers and they were involved, according to authorities, in the protest outside the work places and destroyed some property.
The 4,000 workers who are facing threats of deportation to their countries, without their entitled legal benefits, are from AI Habtoor Engineering Co, Dubai and Sun Engineering & Contracting and Construction Co, Dubai. These companies claim to pay skilled workers US$ 177 a month and unskilled workers US$ 149. However, the workers say that they have not been paid more than US$ 150 and US$ 100 respectively. On the other hand their working hours have been increased to 12 to 14 hours a day in the hot weather, reducing their break times from 2 to 4 hours to one hour only.
In terms of a decision taken in June 2007, Dubai has already deported about 280,000 workers who were staying without legal documents. There has been a tremendous shortage of workers to work, despite the booming construction industry. This shortage has led to deterioration of the working condition of the workers who remain there. Workers with legal documents face long working hours, hard work and low wages. Besides, they are continuously facing threats of cancellation of sponsorship and deportation.
Migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates comprise 85 to 90% of the workforce. Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 allows the right to collective bargaining and raising of labour disputes and their solution through specific structures. However, this law does not apply to migrant workers.
Please write letters to the authorities, demanding that they stop the deportation and repression against workers who sought improvements in their working conditions and respect labour rights.
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