The new coronavirus crisis has demonstrated once again the reality of the misery suffered by migrant workers in the Emirates and the severe arbitrariness they face in their basic rights.
The UAE government has unleashed the hands of private companies to violate the rights of workers and employees, ignoring the basic guiding principles of human rights and international demands that states the necessity of supporting people with low incomes, including obligating them to pay their full salaries and grant them paid leave.
The UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation Affairs issued a decision regarding the stability of employment in the private sector during the period of precautionary measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, and included only those arriving.
The decision came to define five stages for dealing with expatriate employees during the precautionary period, the first of which is the implementation of the remote work system, and secondly the granting of paid leave.
In the third stage, he will be granted leave without pay, and in the fourth stage he will temporarily reduce his wages, and in the end he will permanently reduce his wages in a shameful and arbitrary procedure.
With this decision, the Emirates unleashed private companies to amend the contracts of expatriates or force them to leave unpaid or reduce salary permanently or temporarily and provided them with a legal umbrella, as the worker in the Emirates has no right to complain or resort to the judiciary.
Millions of foreign workers in the UAE face high risks with regard to their rights, with Abu Dhabi announcing comprehensive closures and the failure of operators to pay salaries or consider the possibility of dismissing employees.
Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have warned of violations of the rights of employees and workers and that they may not receive their salaries and may be subject to arbitrary dismissal or even deportation – which is a catastrophe for their families dependent on their income.
The researcher at Human Rights Watch, Heba Zayadin, said that foreign workers in the Gulf, especially the UAE, are already in a bad position under the labor administration system that gives employers broad powers over migrant workers and leads to abuse and exploitation.
The vast majority in the UAE are currently being held in camps, and they are the most vulnerable, and they live in conditions that make social separation impossible, which are recommended by the World Health Organization to prevent the Coronavirus.
The majority of foreign workers in the UAE are from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Many complained that they felt fear for their health and also job security.
The UAE hosts the second largest number of foreign workers in the Arab Gulf region, with 8.7 million workers.