Arabtec's BBC scandal camp 'more or less closed'

Mon 12 Apr 2010 01:50 AM
Watch our exclusive video interview with Arabtec's CFO Ziad Makhzoumi.

The Arabtec labour camp which caused international outcry over treatment of workers in Dubai when secretly filmed by the BBC in 2008 has been “more or less closed down”, company CFO Ziad Makhzoumi told Arabian Business TV on Monday. \n\n“That specific camp has been more or less closed down now, because we could find an alternative place to put thousands of people all living in one place,” he said.

Makhzoumi said sparse availability of affordable land in Dubai during the property boom had made it difficult to house labourers.

“Different camps have different facilities. Some camps are four stars. Some are two stars, but that is due to the restrictions (of where they are built), and whenever there are opportunities to move them to better camps...we would. And they all have more or less the standard facilities,” he said.

Makhzoumi maintained that the BBC had manipulated the footage to portray Arabtec in the worst possible light, saying that subsequent trips by various media to the camp in question had established “that most of the items portrayed by the BBC were fabricated and not true".

He said, however, that since the furore the company had taken steps to improve the lot of its labourers.

“We have taken on board some of the points that were raised. We have worked closely with the people (involved) to see how we could make their lives easier – not that their lives were not easy.

"We believe that we have provided them with a very high standard of living for labour camps. They are definitely better than other labour camps in the region. We listen what they want. \n\n"We take instruction from the Department of Labour on new regulations and requirements and as a result of that program it appears that some new laws were introduced which is a good positive thing.

"I think we all need to work to improve the quality of our labour force because they are the ones who build for us. We are not engineers only, and we are all responsible for their quality of life,” he said.

Arabtec – the biggest construction firm in the Middle East – employs more than 60,000 people. In 2008, it completed projects worth some AED9.6bn.