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Wed 4 Nov 2009 04:00 PM

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UAE says rights of migrant workers 'not negotiable'

Labour Minister says UAE is fully committed to protecting foreign workers.

The UAE is fully committed to protecting migrant workers, saying their rights was something that were "not negotiable", a senior government minister said on Wednesday.

The country's Labour Minister Saqr Gobash said the UAE was "very conscious of the contribution contractual workers make to its economy" and wanted to help to "empower them to fully benefit from their residency in the country".

Speaking at opening plenary session of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Athens, Gobash added: "We would like to open an honest debate about the nature and scope of essential social services that could and ought reasonably to be provided to temporary migrant workers, bearing in mind the cost-benefit implications for all involved."

His comments, published by news agency WAM, came a day after it was revealed that 1,750 Indonesian workers currently working in the Middle East will be repatriated next week amid claims by their government that they are being mistreated.

The migrant workers - employed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan - will be returned home from November 9 "for their own good", Indonesian Manpower and Tranmigration Minister, Muhaimin Iskandar said, adding that his country would also stop sending workers to the three Middle East countries.

The UAE's Labour Minister told the forum that there was much that the UAE could learn from other countries regarding migration models.

"We need to weigh up the costs and benefits of migration from the standpoint of all stakeholders if we are to make migration truly beneficial to all," he added.

"It goes without saying that, in the course of doing so, the fundamental human rights of all people are not to be considered negotiable."

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is an annual international meeting which investigates the methods through which migration may contribute towards development goals.

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Captain 10 years ago

Easier said than done.

Anupama 10 years ago

Is this the very first time I have actually heard the UAE come out and say that migrant workers' rights are not negotiable? I think so.....never happened before - and I believe it is the first step if the UAE wants to set right its human rights record with international human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. And I hope this is not just a sad case of only paying lip service to a problem that remains too major to just wish it would resolve itself, without any concrete and proactive steps being taken.

Chris J 10 years ago

I believe that the intention is admirable, but when a worker must leave the country within 30 days of cancellation of visa, he has no opportunity to take action against an errant employer. I am very aware of cases taking over two years to settle and the employee must be in the country. The employer can drag these cases out by not appearing in court. The courts must lift their game if the rights of workers are to be FULLY protected.

Jerald 10 years ago

Well its a step in the right direction. But honestly i hoped this is not another lip service to sweep issues under the carpet.

Gloria 10 years ago

Agree with Chris that courts here need to do better when there is litigation involved with regard to Labour cases. When the courts refuse to allow a person the right to gainful employment on a temporary labour permit until the case is settled, and the said case can be dragged on for over 20 months by the employer just by not producing evidence in a timely manner/falsifying evidence - then where are the rights of the worker. Every person should have the right to be able to feed himself, clothe himself and pay for a roof over his head without being reduced to penury/beggary. Not all people have family here to support them in these times and rely on themselves to support themselves. To have to have everything translated into Arabic is understandable because we are in an Arabic country - but when translators/legal representatives in the court are not capable of understanding English in a competent manner and MIS- communicate to the judge where is the justice for workers?