By Andy Sambidge
Human Rights Watch says Saadiyat Island worker conditions should be discussed on visit
President François Hollande of France should publicly and privately convey concerns about human rights conditions in the UAE on his visit later this week, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.
Hollande, who will be accompanied by The Louvre Museum’s chairman Henri Loyrette, should seek public guarantees from government officials on working conditions for migrant workers who are building The Louvre Abu Dhabi, it said in a statement.
Hollande is scheduled to arrive for his first official visit to the UAE on January 15.
“Hollande’s first visit to the UAE should not ignore the seriousness of the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and the shameful situation for migrant workers,” said Jean-Marie Fardeau, France director at Human Rights Watch.
“Economic and military interests should not lead France to be quiet on fundamental rights it claims to defend in other parts of the Arab world, in particular in Syria.”
The Louvre museum is to be built on Sadiyaat Island, Abu Dhabi's high-profile tourism project, along with a branch of the Guggenheim Museum and a New York University campus.
However, unlike New York University or the Guggenheim, the Louvre has made no public commitment on workers’ rights, HRW said.
Last September, the US-based rights group said significant challenges remained to meet minimum labour standards for workers on Abu Dhabi's $27bn Saadiyat Island project.
Reacting to a report by independent monitor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), HRW said the concerns highlighted should serve as a "wake-up call" for UAE tourism chiefs.
However, Saadiyat developer, Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), said worker welfare practices had improved and action had been taken to improve problem areas.
The master developer said it was committed to overcoming any challenges in order to "secure an internationally recognised standard of living for workers".
On Sunday, HRW claimed that the UAE had failed to address the shortcomings in its legal and regulatory framework that facilitate the serious exploitation of migrant workers despite years of criticism.
HRW said that following the announcement that a UAE construction firm will build Le Louvre Abu Dhabi in time for its scheduled opening in 2015, Loyrette needs to press the Emirati authorities for public assurances on key issues.
On October 26, the European Parliament issued a public criticism of the UAE in a resolution in which it expressed “great concern” over the crackdown on its domestic critics.
Fardeau added: “President Hollande needs to seek public assurances from the UAE on the rights of the migrant workers who will build the Abu Dhabi branch of France’s national museum.”
It's too funny to see Human Right Watch asking FH to convey concerns over human right in the UAE. I think better to ask France first to respect human right on its own territory rather than calling others. First, freedom of religion in work places and treat legal immigrants in a decent ways rather than discriminating them according to their names and origins.
"Hollandeâ€™s first visit to the UAE should not ignore the seriousness of the crackdown on pro-democracy activists:..." this is not France, this is the UAE. It's a different political system altogether than that of France, so France should stay out of this.
"...and the shameful situation for migrant workers:" I don't believe this attitude to the migrant workers will ever change by the local community. I suggest that you move your Louvre elsewhere if you don't like it here.
UAE president is very generous when it comes to support in delivering immediate assistance to affected people. Be it South Asia or Central Asia, UAE has always extended special help to its neighboring countries.
France is the biggest country where basic Human rights are ignored. If you are rich, yo would not see what I am talking about. Lack of transparency, no freedom of religion, firing you from the job just because you went to pray for 7 mins, giving your wife a ticket if she put on a Hijab, abusing you if you were an immigrant and be treated like a dirt. France lost it's place in the world and not a lot of supporters are out there sheering!