300 workers protest in Abu Dhabi over expired labour cards

Migrant workers have little protection in the UAE
Migrant workers have little protection in the UAE

Migrant workers from a major engineering firm held a protest in Abu Dhabi City on Sunday, demanding their visas be renewed.

Submitted by Ramona on October 31, 2006

The workers, from the General Construction Engineering Company (GCE) gathered outside the Ministry of Labour, demanding their employers took action to renew their visas and labour cards.

Without up-to-date paperwork, the immigrant workers cannot leave the country, seek legal assistance or medical treatment. Some of the workers have not been paid for two months, and many have been without paperwork for over a year.

Immigrants form a very significant portion of the population in Abu Dhabi and across the United Arab Emirates, the majority of whom are of Asian origin, from countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran and the Phillipines. Migrant workers have little protection from the UAE's authorities, and rarely recieve assistance from their own embassies.

The protestors are hoping that the Ministry of Labour will pressurise their employer into updating their paperwork, and leaving them in a less vulnerable situation. However, the Ministry has said it is ultimately the company's responsibility to keep their workers' papers in date. They have said they will impose a fine on the company for employing workers without the appropriate paperwork.

Protestors have described their working conditions as inhumane, saying "We do not live like human beings. Even the water that we drink is the same as that used for concrete."