There are an estimated 700,000 Asian labourers in the UAE [AFP]


Four thousand Asian labourers in Dubai who staged strikes last weekend over poor salaries and working conditions are to be deported, a local newspaper says quoting a government official.


Several thousand manual workers recently stopped work and reportedly occupied and vandalised a building before attacking police and vehicles with stones.

 

Humaid bin Deemas, a senior official from the labour ministry, told the Emarat Al-Youm newspaper on Tueday there would be a "deportation of 4,000 labourers who went on strike and committed  acts of vandalism".

 

"The appropriate bodies have been contacted to carry out the necessary measures [for their deportation]," bin Deemas said.

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"The labourers do not want to work and we will not force them to."

 

On Sunday, the strike spread to three other areas in the city, with the local press reporting around 3,100 workers being involved.

 

Police then moved in and returned the strikers to their accommodation blocks.

 

An estimated 700,000 migrant Asian labourers work as construction workers in the UAE, where fewer than 20 per cent of a population of four million are UAE citizens.

 

But protests are rare in the UAE, as strike action and the formation of unions are illegal.

 

The newspaper did not confirm when the deportations of those involved would take place.


But construction companies do not want more workers to leave as they struggle to find enough to complete existing projects following a government amnesty.


In June, the government offered an amnesty to illegal workers and were promptly swamped by 280,000 applications for exit papers.

 

A booming economy in India means that many Indian labourers no longer see the need to travel to Dubai and the Gulf, said Bernard Raj, managing director of the Dubai-based Keith International, which supplies Indian workers.

 

"In the past, when we go for recruitment of workers we were able to choose whomever we wanted. Now the turnout of candidates is very low," he said.

 

'Abusive labour practices'

Dubai has experienced a huge boom in its economy in recent years fuelled to a large degree by the growth of the construction sector.
 
Raj estimated that at least 40 per cent more workers were needed for the city's projects.

Rights groups have complained at the harsh conditions many labourers are forced to endure working across the Gulf region.

Predominantly from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the labourers work in the region so they can send money home to their families.

The workers have also suffered from the decline of the UAE dihram which, pegged to the US dollar, has plummeted in value, further decreasing labourers' already low salaries.

In March last year, 2,500 labourers rioted at the construction site of Burj Dubai, which is to be the world's tallest building.

The incident prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch to issue a statement calling on the UAE government to "end abusive labour practices" describing labour conditions as "less than  human".

Last November Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE, ordered sweeping measures to protect the rights of foreign labourers.

The UAE's construction boom has been built on migrant labour [EPA]

Source: Agencies