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Mon 21 Nov 2011 09:12 AM

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Rights groups squeeze Gulf states over labour abuses

Lobby groups set to capitalise on World Cup, global tie-ups to push migrant workers agenda

Rights groups squeeze Gulf states over labour abuses
Image for illustrative purposes only
Rights groups squeeze Gulf states over labour abuses
Image for illustrative purposes only

Human rights
groups are to step up their fight against labour abuses in the Gulf states
by capitalising on events such as the 2022 World Cup and tie-ups with
international firms to pile pressure on local governments.

GCC states are looking to build diversify their petrodollar-driven economies by
bidding for events such as the Olympics, and inking deals with international
brands to attract tourists.

But such
deals are turning the spotlight on the migrant worker rights in the region, opening
the door for lobby groups to squeeze the Gulf’s international partners in a bid
to force change.

events will be used [to launch campaigns], said Dr Mustafa Alani of the
Geneva-based Gulf Research Centre. “ Globalisation and engagement with the
international community brings with it certain demands and one of the major
demands is human, workers and political rights.

rights organisations definitely take advantage of this; they did in China with
the Olympics and in Moscow. I don’t think that there is any exception in this

Fifa had
a taste of this tactic last week, when it was lobbied by international trade
unions objecting to the conditions of “modern slavery” seen by migrant workers
in Qatar.

In a
letter to soccer’s governing body, the International Trade Union Confederations
asked that the gas-rich Gulf state be stripped of its hosting rights for the
2022 World Cup if conditions failed to improve.

The group,
which represents 175 million workers worldwide, presented Fifa president Sepp
Blatter with a letter outlining its ‘No World Cup in Qatar without Labour
Rights’ campaign.

“If the
leaders of the Gulf states think they can buy world government votes for major
sporting events or cultural events and still continue to exploit workers then they
will find the community campaign around the world will simply hot up,” said Sharan
Burrow, general secretary, ITUC.

“If they
want to be part of the global community and the global economy they have to
treat people with the dignity and respect of fundamental rights.”

The Gulf plays host to millions of migrants, primarily from
Asia, who account for the majority of blue-collar workers in the construction,
domestic work, and service industries.

An estimated three million migrate each year, sending back
an estimated $175bn in remittances annually, according to Human Rights Watch

The six GCC states employ around 15 million guest workers,
according to World Bank figures. In Kuwait, there is approximately one migrant
domestic worker for every two citizens.

and Qatar have both announced plans to host international sports events. Qatar
in December won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup and has since said it
will launch bids for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. The UAE said it plans
to bid for the 2024 Olympics Games.

FIFA last
week pledged to address labour concerns in Qatar and said the worker conditions
would be a future criteria for nations bidding to host the World Cup.

“It was
also agreed to add labour related criteria to the bidding process of future
FIFA World Cups.:

The Gulf
states each need to address their human rights record if they want to be part
of the global economy, said Burrow.

ball is at the seat of the Qatari authorities and the rest of the Gulf states
because if they want to be part of the global economy… they can’t continue a
model of exploitation of workers.”

 The UAE earlier this year faced criticism over
the working conditions of migrant workers on its Saadiyat Island project, the
cornerstone of Abu Dhabi’s tourism plans.

island is set to house branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, but a
group of 130 artists said in March they would boycott the $800 Guggenheim project
unless conditions for foreign workers building the structure improved.

. The
group, which included several prominent artists in the region, said they would
refuse to participate in events or sell their works to the museum unless their
demands were met.

should not be asked to exhibit their work in buildings built on the backs of
exploited workers,” Walid Raad, a Lebanese-born New York artist said in a
statement in March. 

working with bricks and mortar deserve the same kind of respect as those
working with cameras and brushes.”

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Wadi 8 years ago

Unfortunately it is just the way it is in this part of the world.

Here we have wealthy, yet unskilled Gulf states completely dependant on migrant workers.

On the flip side we have incredibly poor migrant workers in their hundreds of thousands who have no choice but to accept the conditions as part of the job.

Unfortunately, with such numbers desparately seeking work, exploitation will always be around in one form or another. It is, like it or not, simply the cycle of this part of the world.

Slightly off subject, it's worth remembering that India spend billions on nuclear weapons and their space programme whilst the majority of the population lives in squalor. What chance do their people have when such greed is on display?

Ira 8 years ago

".....who have no choice but to accept the conditions.....".Yes, as long as we believe we have no choice, we will be exploited. That isthe mindset we need to change.

We always have a choice. Don't take that job, in a country where you are treated like a stray animal . In one's own country poverty might be a given but atleast you have emotional support from your network of family, friends and the general public.You can question people, speak up for your rights, curse the man who abuses you on his face if you have to.

Fear can create such high walls that we stop ourselves from seeing what we can do; where we are capable of reaching.

Most of the workers who come to the Gulf have no idea of how horrible the conditions are, to start with.They can't think beyond the glorious salary they have been promised

nnz 8 years ago

The labour abuses can be curbed only by making stricter laws and implementing them under the supervision of UN Human Rights commission impartially.
The owners of companies should be held responsible more that the Government.However the Governments of GCC should be given stricter instructions from UN to be humane and be strict in implementation of ISlamic law when i tocmes to the Rights of people within the ILO and UN.

david 8 years ago

The Human Rights Groups should pressure countries which are sending labor to gulf states to STOP their processing so NON shall travel to Gulf states for employment. Hit at the Root so ther be no more abuse of no workers are employed in Gulf.