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Human rights and the UAE

Human rights and the UAE

It will be hard to win the battle for credibility against Human Rights Watch if we keep arresting labourers on salaries of AED 650 a month.

January 27, 2011 3:34 by

“The Ministry noted that Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) recognition of a number of recent UAE labor decrees and policies that increased the protection extended to foreign workers,” it said. The paper must have realized it stretched things a bit, however, as it later changed the original headline (“UAE’s efforts lauded by HRW”) to the more sober: “Labour Ministry responds to HRW report.”

And respond it did, but the tone was less welcoming and more condemning of the reports – as both ‘senstationalist’ and ‘tabloid’ like. Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, Humaid bin Deema, told WAM, “The ministry believes tabloid-style advocacy of human and labour rights does a disservice to the very cause of human rights of foreign workers, and undermines the credibility of the advocating organisation.”

Kipp will be the first to say that there has been a bias on display in Western, darker-side-of-Dubai type of reporting, and it’s been both unfair and sensationalist. So, on some level, these words are justified and show strength. They would be just so much stronger if these articles on the HRW report didn’t coincide with the story of workers being deported for instigating a 3,000 man protest over wage increases at Arabtec. Nazmul Quauanine, the Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE, told the National that workers currently receive a basic salary of Dh650 per month and had reason to believe that the protest had resulted in the company agreeing to increase wages by Dh150 per month.

Leave aside the fact the a salary of a meager Dh650 per month is a cause for concern for human rights activitists around the globe, responding to such events with brazen comments like, “We cannot keep people here who create disorder. Their presence in the country is dangerous and therefore we need to take action against them” (from Col Mohammed al Mur, director general of the Dubai Police General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control) does little for the UAE in terms of human rights perceptions.

We may be willing to buy the argument that many criticisms of the country are of the ‘sensational-tabloid-style’, but until we see more positive actions from the government, and less negative ones, our money is with HRW on this one.

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