Geneva -– In an oral statement before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor stated that expatriate workers in the UAE have been subjected to racial and discriminatory practices for years. The coronavirus outbreak in the country led to the escalation of these practices.
In a joint statement with the International Institute for Rights and Development (IRDG) as part of UNHRC’s debate on racism and racial discrimination during the 45th session of UNHRC, Euro-Med Monitor stated that expatriate workers constitute the vast majority of the workforce in the UAE, estimated at 90%, and they have been subjected to various human rights violations even before the outbreak of the pandemic. For example, construction workers, who represent nearly a third of the workforce in the country, are among the most vulnerable as construction companies have continuously failed to protect their rights.
Rawane Matene, a Researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, noted in the statement that last March, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization issued a resolution allowing businesses to amend migrant worker contracts, to force them to go on unpaid leave, or to accept permanent or temporary salary reductions. The statement added that expatriate workers have no rights to complain or resort to Emirati courts. This renders them acutely vulnerable to human rights abuses and exploitation by their employers..
The two organizations urged HRC and its member states to exert pressure on the Emirati authorities to put an end to its discriminatory measures against migrant workers and to introduce serious reforms to provide a special protection for migrant workers during the coronavirus outbreak to end their exploitation.