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4 Feb 2022

Expo 2020 Dubai: Migrant workers at intl. fair subject to forced labour, racial discrimination & exploitative labour practices, say Equidem

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On 2 February, to coincide with reforms to the labour law coming into effect in the United Arab Emirates, Equidem released a report into working conditions and experiences of migrant workers at the Expo 2020 Dubai – an international exhibition fair featuring pavilions from 192 countries.

The report is based on 30 structured interviews with workers, and 39 more semi-structured interviews with workers at Expo 2020 Dubai just prior to and after the official opening of the exhibition.

Equidem found evidence of workers being subject to forced labour, racial discrimination and systemic labour exploitation, concluding that Expo 2020 Dubai companies are not complying with Expo Worker Welfare Standards and that UAE authorities are not enforcing labour protections. The report found:

  • More than half of interviewees had paid illegal recruitment fees to gain employment, with the average payment being USD1,006;
  • Two-thirds of interviewees said that their wages were not paid on time or in full;
  • Only one worker interviewed was in possession of their passport with interviewees stating that the practice is common.; and
  • Several workers cited fear of reprisal for the reason they had not wanted to file complaints, others did not believe this would achieve anything, and Equidem found the UAE ban on unionising limits workers’ access to grievance mechanism and remedy.

Equidem approached the Expo and UAE Govt. for comment; neither has yet responded to the report.

Report Launch: "EXPOsed: Discrimination and forced labour practices at Expo 2020 Dubai"

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