UAE’s migrant workers fret over future

UAE’s migrant workers fret over future

UAE’s migrant workers fret over future in coronavirus economy; that is according to my reading, perhaps about their own future in the Gulf region, particularly in the UAE during and above all after the passing of the pandemic. It must be reminded that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched its Mars mission dubbed “Al Amal”, or “Hope”, on July 20, 2020.

In the meantime, here is the original Reuters article that covers this traumatic period in the life of those numerous migrant workers in the UAE.


DUBAI (Reuters) – When Kapil left his Nepali village for an airport job packing cargo in the United Arab Emirates, he thought he was securing a future for himself and his family.

UAE's migrant workers fret over future
Unemployed men queue for food handouts from concerned local residents after they lost incomes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Dubai, United Arab Emirates July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Lisa Barrington

But less than a year after arriving in the Middle East trade and tourism hub, he questions whether it was the right decision after learning there would be no work this month.

“I’m totally hopeless,” said 29-year-old Kapil, whose wife and five-year-old son are in Nepal.

The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies of the oil-rich Gulf, heavily reliant on low-paid foreign workers.

They are the backbone of the Gulf economies, taking jobs in construction, services and transport, and are now facing the realities of the pandemic.

Reuters spoke to over 30 workers like Kapil in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, who all said they are now enduring hardship due to coronavirus.

Many have racked up debt and would go hungry without the help of charities as they wait for work and to be paid.

Some said they found little reason to stay without work and wanted to return to their home countries despite being owed months of wages; hundreds of thousands have already left.

The treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf has come under greater scrutiny, with human rights groups saying conditions have deteriorated because of the pandemic.

In the UAE, most attractive because of the economic opportunities it offers, there is no social safety net for foreigners, who make up about 90% of the population.

A laundry service worker from Cameroon told Reuters he had not been paid in months and was now selling fruit and vegetables on the street earning 30 to 40 dirhams a day ($8-$11).

The UAE government communication office did not respond to emailed questions about migrant worker welfare.

In May, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the Gulf state was committed to protecting the rights of all workers, state news agency WAM reported.

DEBTS

Those in blue collar jobs are the most vulnerable. They are paid low wages, work long hours and often live in cramped dormitories that have been coronavirus hotbeds.

Many also pay fees to recruiters in their home country, a practice common for low paying jobs in the Gulf.

Kapil, who said he paid a recruiter 175,000 Nepali rupees ($1,450) for his UAE job, is not sure when he will work again.

His employer told staff they would only be paid when they worked and it was unclear whether there would be any work next month, he said.

Kapil said he had been earning around $600 a month – six times more than his teacher salary in Nepal – working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week at the airport.

He said not working had left him stressed and unable to provide for his wife, child and elderly parents in Nepal.

Kapil, who showed his employment contract and other documents to Reuters, asked that his full name not be published and his employer not identified over fears he could face repercussions.

Arriving in the UAE last October, Kapil thought he would work at the airport for a few years before finding a better job, possibly using his teaching skills.Slideshow (4 Images)

Now he just hopes to work until the end of the year to pay back his loans.

“The global economy is getting worse and it’s affecting each and every business … I think during this time it’s hard to find any other job.”

UNPAID WAGES

No official statistics of how many people have left the UAE are available. But at least 200,000 workers, mostly from India but also from Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal, have left, according to their diplomatic missions.

Sectors like construction and retail were struggling even before the crisis, which exacerbated hardship for workers already exposed to payment delays.

Mohammed Mubarak has not been paid for around 11 months for security work at a Dubai theme park.

“The company doesn’t know when they’ll be able to pay us, and we are suffering,” the Ghanaian said.

Government coronavirus restrictions that forced many businesses to shutter for weeks began to ease in May. Shopping centres, water parks, bars and restaurants – all staffed by migrant workers – are once again open, raising hopes.

Zulfiqar, a Pakistani in Dubai for 12 years, sent his family home early in the outbreak but stayed on hoping for work, sharing a room and what cash he has with a dozen other unemployed men.

“Things in Pakistan are also not good,” he said.

By Alexander CornwellLisa Barrington and Davide Barbuscia, Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Giles Elgood

Black Lives Matter in the MENA region

Black Lives Matter in the MENA region

Dnyanesh Kamat, Political analyst in Columns on Black Lives Matter across the MENA region states that From Basra to Beirut and from Tunis to Tel Aviv, anti-Black racism exists in various forms across the region. Here it is :

Black Lives Matter: Racism in the Middle East and North Africa — and how to combat it

29 June 2020

While much of the Western world remains convulsed with Black Lives Matter protests, the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region should use this moment to address its own anti-Black racism problem. From Basra to Beirut and from Tunis to Tel Aviv, anti-Black racism exists in various forms across the region.

In the Mena region, it is mostly the consequence of centuries of slavery, with Black Africans enslaved and sold in slave markets across the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf. Indeed, in some parts of the Gulf, slavery was abolished only as recently as the 1970s. This is also why racial insults hurled at Black people in these countries often refer to them as “slaves” or “servants.”

This racist mindset also leads to widespread systemic discrimination against Black people throughout the region. Basra in southern Iraq is home to the majority of the country’s estimated 1.2 million Black population. Black Iraqis have long complained of systemic racism, with limited access to housing, education, healthcare and all but the most menial jobs.

While Black communities in some Mena countries grapple with the legacy of slavery, others still face modern-day slavery or conditions akin to it. Mauritania is one of the last countries on the planet where slavery continues to this day. The Global Slavery Index of 2018 estimates there are approximately 90,000 Black Mauritanians, or roughly 2.4 per cent of the population, bound to a caste system that is a form of modern-day slavery, with their enslavement inherited from ancestors and passed down to their children. Slavery was abolished in 1981 but it was not until 2007 that it was made a crime, and that too in response to international pressure, with successive governments failing to eradicate the scourge.

A similar caste-like Black community exists at the margins of society in Yemen. They call themselves the Muhamasheen (“the marginalized”), but other Yemenis refer to them pejoratively as the Akhdam (“the servants”). Many survive by begging. Needless to say, this community has borne the brunt of Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

While countries like Mauritania and Yemen grapple with centuries-old practices, others have seen slavery rear its ugly head in modern times. Black Africans have long used Libya’s long Mediterranean coast as a staging post from which to attempt to reach Europe. Several migrants have been enslaved and tortured by Libyan militias, and subsequently sold in open-air slave markets.

Popular culture in the Mena region is also rife with anti-Black racism, from caricatures of Black people used for comedy to erasing them completely from depictions of national culture. The national media in countries like Tunisia portray the country’s citizens as light-skinned. It might come as a shock that 15 per cent of Tunisians are black.

Iran has a sizeable Black population living along the country’s southern coast. Their contribution to the culture of that region – whether in terms of cuisine, spirituality or to the unique bandari music – is immense. But Iranian popular culture would have us believe the country is populated only by fair-skinned Persians. This comes largely from the “Aryan myth” of Iranian nationalism. Depictions of Black people are limited to stereotypes or pale-skinned people in “blackface” – theatrical make-up used to portray racist caricatures of Black people. Indeed, early Iranian theatre often featured a type of comedy performance known as Siah Baazi, a term meaning “playing black.”

In the Arab world, more recently, several Arabic-language networks have come in for criticism for their racist depiction of Black people in hidden camera-practical joke reality television shows.

Almost a year ago, protesters marched through cities in Israel calling for an end to anti-Black police brutality and discrimination in housing, healthcare and education. One of the most horrifying examples of anti-Black racism in Israel occurred in 2016 when the government admitted to having given Ethiopian-Israeli women long-term contraceptives without their consent. The community’s birth rate has halved over the past decade.

Perhaps the most egregious form of institutionalized racism in the Mena region is the kafala system of hiring migrant workers in Lebanon and parts of the Gulf, which has been described as a modern-day form of slavery. The kafala system, which is not covered by regular labour laws in Lebanon, gives employers total control over the legal residency of “their” workers. Every so often, horrific kafala-related stories emerge of migrant workers, most of them African, being made to work long hours without pay, tortured, sexually abused and even murdered, with little or no recourse to the law for help. Racism also pervades the tourism and hospitality sector in Lebanon and parts of the Gulf, with African and South Asian tourists complaining of being denied entry to trendy bars and clubs.

If there is to be any impetus for change in the Mena region, it is likely to come from civil society. For example, recent protests against Lebanon’s corrupt political class were led by the youth of the country and included calls to abolish kafala. In 2018, Tunisia became the first Mena country to pass a wide-ranging anti-racism law.

But much more needs to be done. Mena countries need to rethink their concept of nationalism, redefine the meaning of citizenship and re-negotiate the social contract between citizen and state. If there is to be any hope of dismantling racism and every vestige of slavery in the region, those are fundamental imperatives. Let the Black Lives Matter movement be the catalyst.

In arrangement with Syndication Bureau

Qatar to pay workers in quarantine full salaries

Qatar to pay workers in quarantine full salaries

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 781 in Qatar, including two deaths. Information broadcast by QATAR based Al Jazeera NEWS that informs that Qatar to pay workers in quarantine full salaries. This was, in the not so distant past, was always the case.
Qatar has about 2.6 million inhabitants as of early 2017, the majority of whom (about 92%) live in Doha, the capital. Foreign workers amount to around 88% of the population, with Indians being the largest community numbering around 1,230,000. It will host the Football World Cup of 2022.

Qatar to pay workers in quarantine full salaries
The government announced that three billion riyals ($824m) were set aside to support companies in paying their employees. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Migrant workers in Qatar who are in quarantine or undergoing treatment will receive full salaries, the government has announced.

Qatar has announced 781 confirmed coronavirus cases – the highest in the Arab Gulf region – and two deaths.

In a news conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) also said it was mandatory for employers and companies to follow the policy.

He added that a hotline service (92727) was launched to receive workers’ grievances.

“The companies are responding fully because they know that the workers were put in quarantine as a precautionary measure to protect all of us,” Muhammed Hassan al-Obaidly, assistant under-secretary for labour affairs at MADLSA, said.

He also said three billion riyals ($824m) were set aside to support companies in paying their employees.

“We are working 24 hours through department concerned for wage protection system to monitor the companies on a daily basis, checking the transactions, sending messages directly to the companies who are found delaying the payments,” said al-Obaidly.

“We will communicate with the workers in their language and will take the statement to address the issue. They do not need to come to the services centre of the ministry.”READ MORE

Qatar welcomes Bahrain move to evacuate citizens stuck in Doha

Those outside Qatar will be able to renew their Qatar identity cards (QID) without any penalties, he added.

Those who are unable to return home after having their jobs terminated will “remain in Qatar with proper lodging and food”.

“Some countries have closed their airports and, in such cases, an appropriate mechanism will be set on how to repatriate these workers to ensure they do not remain stranded.”

Reiterating Qatar’s policy of providing free treatment to all individuals infected with coronavirus, al-Obaidly, said those who do not have valid working visas and are illegal in the country would also be treated free of charge.

Amid growing fears over the spread of the virus, Qatar has banned the entry of foreigners after suspending all incoming flights for the next two weeks.

Last week, Qatar announced the closure of all shops, except for food stores and pharmacies, and bank branches. Eighty percent of government employees were also ordered to work from home.

Read more on:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Migrant workers in Qatar facing discrimination

Migrant workers in Qatar facing discrimination


An AFP article published on December 1, 2019, by FRANCE 24 reported on Migrant workers in Qatar facing discrimination as per a UN expert warns of racial profiling ‘prevalence’ in Qatar involving migrant workers. We would add that this situation is not specific to the State of Qatar but all the region of the GCC with subtle variations between states.


DOHA (AFP) – Migrant workers in Qatar are facing discrimination because of their nationality, racial identity, stereotyping and the “prevalence” of profiling, an independent UN expert warned on Sunday (Dec 1).

The Gulf monarchy has seen an influx of migrant workers, mainly from poor developing countries, in advance of the 2022 World Cup meaning that the population is 90 per cent non-Qatari.

A worker walking at a construction site for the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Sept 25, 2019. A UN expert said that migrant workers in Qatar are facing discrimination.
A worker walking at a construction site for the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Sept 25, 2019. A UN expert said that migrant workers in Qatar are facing discrimination. PHOTO: AFP

“For many people living in Qatar, their capacity to enjoy human rights fully is mediated by their nationality or national origin,” the UN’s special rapporteur on racism and discrimination Tendayi Achiume told AFP.

Migrants from specific countries are often recruited for certain roles such as women from south-east Asia for domestic work and men from south Asia for unskilled construction jobs, she said.

“Far from being mostly short-term guest workers, many low-income workers spend the better part of their working lives in Qatar and do so facing serious barriers to full enjoyment of their fundamental human rights,” she said.

Very few migrant workers ever qualify for permanent residency and almost none achieve citizenship and the welfare benefits enjoyed by Qataris.

UN experts are independent and do not speak for the world body, but their findings can be used to inform the work of UN organisations including the rights council.

Ms Achiume will present her final report on the visit to the UN Human Rights Council in July 2020.

She warned that stereotypes persist in public and private that “Sub-Saharan African men are presumed to be unsanitary, sub-Saharan African women are presumed to be sexually available, and South Asian nationalities are presumed unintelligent”.

“North Americans, Europeans and Australians, on the other hand, are presumed superior, and whites in general are presumed to be inherently competent,” she said.

But Ms Achiume stressed that while racism and discrimination remained an issue in Qatar, authorities had accepted the issue and made efforts to improve the situation – unlike some other countries.

“The existence of racial, ethnic and national stereotypes and discriminatory structures… are, in part, the product of the history of slavery in Qatar,” she said.

Slavery in the country was abolished in 1952.

Ms Achiume, a law professor at UCLA in the United States, said she had also received reports that “highlighted the prevalence of racial and ethnic profiling by police and traffic authorities”.

Security guards in parks and shopping centres also engaged in such practices, she said, favouring white and Arab residents while treating others differently.

Ms Achiume praised Qatar for the “significant reforms the government has embarked on that stand to make important contributions to combatting structural racial discrimination”. “Much work remains to be done, however,” she said.

Mutual Necessity Relationship between the Gulf  and India

Mutual Necessity Relationship between the Gulf and India

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda, stories on Migration and Workforce and Employment abound. This one on India‘s record-breaking diaspora is the latest. It is doubly interesting because of a) the significant presence of more than 8 million NRIs (non-resident Indians) in the Gulf and b) it is reflective of a mutual necessity relationship between the Gulf and India.

In 2019, remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries are expected to reach $550 billion, becoming their largest source of external financing. ‘Indians abroad sent back $80 billion, making the country the leading recipient of funds from overseas.’ Per Image above: REUTERS/Pawan Kumar.

Katharine Rooney, Senior Writer, Formative Content, the Indian diaspora elsewhere seem to be not that dissimilar to that of the GCC’s.

Excerpts of the WEF article:

India’s record-breaking diaspora in numbers

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United States, he is among compatriots – 4.4 million of them.

India has the largest diaspora in the world, with around 18 million of its citizens living in other countries. The US is their top destination: in 2017, people of Indian descent made up 1.3% of the American population, and they are the most successful immigrants in the country.

As economist Nirvikar Singh says in an interview with the University of California Santa Cruz, “Indian entrepreneurship is a very important engine of economic growth.” The co-author of a book on the Indian diaspora in the US notes that 8% of the founders of high-tech companies are Indian. With Sundar Pichai running Google and Satya Nadella the CEO of Microsoft, Indians play a prominent role in some of America’s biggest tech firms.

Indian-Americans watch Narendra Modi in Madison Square Gardens in New York. The US is a key destination for Indian emigrants.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Economic factors lure large numbers of Indians to the Persian Gulf, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is home to 3.1 million Indians. The number of Indians living in the UAE and other countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Oman increased fourfold in the space of a decade, from 2 million in 2005 to more than 8 million in 2015.

It’s a numbers game

Despite a sizeable outflow, India is still home to 1.39 billion people – and by 2027, it’s set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. While there has been progress in reducing extreme poverty levels, there are still 176 million people living in poverty in India, and money remitted by expatriates is an important part of economic development and growth. In 2018, Indians abroad sent back $80 billion, making the country the leading recipient of funds from overseas.


According to the Reserve Bank of India, inward remittances helped to finance 43% of the country’s trade deficit in 2017-18. They also help to meet the needs of the poor by covering the cost of daily living expenses and allowing people to invest in business and education.

Countries with the largest diasporas – India has the world’s biggest, with nearly 18 million people living abroad.
Twenty countries or areas of origin with the largest diaspora populations (millions) Image: UNDESA

The ever-changing direction of migration

With a significant spike in emigration since 2015, India has overtaken other countries that once represented significant migrant populations – many escaping political upheaval or conflict.

But there has been a huge jump in migration from Syria, with more than 5.6 million fleeing the country since war broke out in 201, and a steady rise in the number of people leaving Pakistan, where the government has encouraged outward migration as a way to combat unemployment, reduce poverty and earn foreign exchange through remittances.

Migration Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis This article is part of the India Economic Summit

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