Exposing the appalling conditions facing many Asian labourers in the Gulf.
|Dubai authorities did not previously indicate
that workers had been imprisoned [AFP]
More than 4,000 labourers from South Asia, who were imprisoned for taking part in a strike against poor working conditions in Dubai, have been released.
India’s ambassador to the UAE said 160 workers, including 90 Indian nationals, remained in custody in Dubai‘s central prison after authorities determined they had participated in violence during the strike at the weekend.
Talmiz Ahmad said most of the roughly 4,000 to 4,500 Asian workers who were released on Wednesday had no remaining grievances with their employers and had returned to work.
Strikes and the formation of unions are illegal in the UAE.
Police and Dubai government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Authorities had not previously announced that any workers had been imprisoned after the weekend strike.
Speaking to a local newspaper on Tuesday, however, a senior labour ministry official did indicate many of those involved in the strike could be deported.
In the Indian capital Delhi on Wednesday, Navtej Sarna, a spokesman for India‘s ministry of external affairs, said officials there were not aware of thousands of people having been detained until Wednesday, and believed only about 140 people remained in custody Wednesday, including 90 Indians.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between the numbers from Indian officials in the UAE and in New Delhi.
Ali bin Abdullah al-Kaabi, the minister for labour in the UAE, has called the workers’ behavior “uncivilised,” saying they were tampering with national security and endangering residents’ safety.
The thousands of construction workers went on strike on Saturday and Sunday over harsh working conditions, including low pay and rising prices in Dubai.
While labourers have long complained about working conditions in this Gulf, their recent actions come as contractors are struggling to find enough workers, after a government amnesty prompted many illegal Asian workers to leave Dubai.
Construction workers toil for long hours in the desert emirate, where temperatures exceed 45C in the summer, and humidity is stifling for most of the year.