The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Human Rights in Dubai

Sorry, no cricket this time. Although I am speechless at the astounding level of stupidity that has guided the team selection of the Bangalore Royal Challengers thus far. I know Sunil Joshi is a local hero, but come on. With that kind of logic maybe Prasanna can come back and bowl us some offbreaks. He certainly couldn’t do any worse than Joshi — 3 matches , 0 total wickets.But I digress…

Laborers in a Dubai labor camp 'room'

The Labor Camps in Sonapur, Dubai

I like Outlook India because many of their articles are somewhat out-of-the-box and more often than not they present opinions from both sides of the pond, as it were, which allows you to form your own opinion. Yes, they are sensationalist, but what media outlet in India isn’t? Their latest cover story, Al Dorado, is about Dubai, specifically, about the Indian view of the city. There is the usual ooh-look-at-that-incredibly-tall-building nonsense, but there’s also this piece, by Achal Prabhala that caught my interest. When I first read it, it was entitled “Why Dubai Sucks“; it has since very clandestinely been renamed “Dubailand“, for reasons unknown. It basically talks to what many of you will come to see as a central theme of my ranting on this blog — that Indians, for the most part, have built this city, but are treated as sub-human degenerates by the government and locals. You only need to see how Indian laborers are treated at the immigration line at the airport to get a sense of what I’m saying.While Achal takes a detour in the article and launches into an impromptu assessment of toilets at the Dubai International Airport, and the multipurpose usages of said toilets’ lavatory components, he brings up some seldom written about issues with regard to the Indian blue collar workforce in Dubai. I say “seldom-written-about”, but that’s not quite true. Human Rights Watch and Ansar Burney (Pakistani human rights activist) have been consistently pointing out the systemic mistreatment of foreign laborers in the city; it’s just the Indians who, ironically, have chosen to turn a blind eye.


In a city where nonpayment of wages is common to even the white-collar workforce, the exploitation-with-no-wage benefits arrangement that blue collar laborers get sucked into in Dubai is nothing short of bonded slavery. As if working 10 hours in 120 ° temperatures isn’t bad enough, they have to come back “home” to labor camps in Sonapur or Al Quoz where 8-10 people are cramped up in a room about the size of a kennel (and about as well equipped). Gulf News ran an uncharacteristically bold story about living conditions in Sonapur> sometime last year (“Workers live amid pools of sewage“) . The most revolting aspect of all this is the attitude of the Indians in the city, who constitute about 44% of the total population. Most of them couldn’t care less about the plight of the laborers. And shock horror, neither could the Indian consulate. The argument is often made (as it is in the Outlook article) that its not like laborers get treated any better in India. True. But there’s a heck of a lot of difference being treated like shit in your own country than being treated like one in a foreign land which affords you not even the most basic rights of expression and redressing grievances. Of course, it was only after the laborers revolted against asshole employers like Emaar that the government woke up and took notice.

The lack of testicular fortitude of the Indian consulate (and consequently the Indian government) has resulted in decades of exploitation by very happy (and rich) Emirati employers. Hopefully, more rampant protests from laborers who haven’t already resorted to hanging themselves out of sheer helplessness would wake these bastards up even more to the realities of dignity, fair treatment and equality.

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3 Responses

  1. temp1 says:

    sorry but that picture is from Moroccan jail in south Sahara, not from Dubai…

  2. thefiltercoffee says:

    temp1 – that’s a pretty convenient excuse…how do you know? The people in the picture don’t look Moroccan. I’ve been to Morocco. I should know. Don’t make frivolous excuses on behalf of a barbaric state.

  3. Mich'ael says:

    If that picture is true of living conditions and treatment of workers in Dubai… well, I hope the employers realize Bad Karma is usually very bad.

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