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Wed 18 Mar 2015 11:20 AM

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New York University professor banned from flying to the UAE

Andrew Ross, who has been a vocal critic of workers’ conditions in Abu Dhabi, was barred due to ‘security reason’

New York University professor banned from flying to the UAE

A New York
University (NYU) professor, who has been a vocal critic of labour workers
conditions in the UAE and was last week barred from flying to Abu Dhabi this
week due to security reasons, has called on the institution’s authorities to take
action to remove his travel ban.

Andrew Ross (pictured below), a
professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU, was due to
fly to Abu Dhabi last week when his passport was flagged up by airline staff
at the check-in desk at New York’s John F Kennedy airport.

The airline called UAE
authorities and Ross was informed he was not allowed to fly and his entry had been banned due to security reasons.

“I knew when
the check-in people had some issues when my passport had flagged for them and
one of their representatives had to call the UAE authorities,” he told
Arabian Business.

Ross was not given
any further information on why he had been refused permission to fly to the UAE
but he said he believes it is to do with his work on human rights and, in
particular, his criticism of migrant workers’ living conditions in Abu Dhabi,
where NYU has had international campus on Saadiyat Island since September 2010.

“A year
previously [I was in Abu Dhabi] gathering testimonies from workers on
conditions in labour camps. I am a high profile advocate so it was a great
surprise to me to find myself on the list… I have written an op ed piece about
the findings from my trip,” he added.

Ross said he
had planned to travel to Abu Dhabi for a holiday and to continue his research
into conditions for workers.

Last year, the
issue received much media attention when the New
York Times wrote a feature highlighting concerns over workers' rights in Abu Dhabi.

“I have been
working on this issue for several years. The New York Times story changed
things a lot and there is a lot more attention to it… It doesn’t surprise me
but the difference with my case is… I am an NYU professor and should have academic
freedom and this is a clear violation of that,” Ross said, adding that the
academic community in NYU was becoming increasingly concerned about the issue
and was calling for more to be done.

“People are
increasingly vocal on this issue… Student facility groups have petitioned the
administration for further guarantees for the appointment of a truly
independent, liberal monitor. We have also asked for cross campus research
initiatives to look into solutions for the reform of the kafala [labour]
system. We don’t think that NYU’s work is over just when the construction of
the campus is complete."

“Security
reasons — that’s one of those ‘because we feel like it’ kind of reasons. And so
it also interferes severely with the work of scholars who hope to work in those
places, like Andrew… I don’t know what can be done about it except to publicise
it and hope that the university will work to rectify it,” Jim Uleman, a
professor of psychology at NYU, told the New York Times.

“I think there
will be adverse consequences,” Ross added. “It might be a wake-up call. If I was
an NYU administrator I would be doing by utmost to have the ban lifted, to
provide some strong, transparent assurance that this is a significant issue and
nothing like this will happen again or could ever happen again.”

NYU
spokesperson John Beckman issued the following statement on the incident: “The
University supports the free movement of people and ideas. We've had five years
of running a campus in Abu Dhabi, and our faculty and students have experienced
zero infringements on their academic freedom, even when conducting classes
about sensitive topics - labour, politics, or what have you. But it is also the
case that regardless of where NYU or any other university operates, it is the
government that controls visa and immigration policy, and not the
university."

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Paolo C 5 years ago

Maybe he should investigate on the ongoing slavery conditions in America. If it wasn't for the mexicans and south americans the US economy would look much different today.

Doug 5 years ago

Ah yes, the classic response - because things aren't perfect somewhere else, therefore we shouldn't criticise things when they're worse.

What 'slavery' conditions are you talking about? As far as I'm aware, there is no endemic issue in the States of Mexicans being forced to work without pay and then being treated as property. Perhaps you don't understand what 'slavery' actually is?

In any case, I bet you even the lowest paid Mexican in the US earns more than your average labourer in the UAE.