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12 Dec 2023

UAE: Climate-induced migration leaves workers 'doubly impacted' in hot & dangerous conditions, incl. in gig & renewable sectors, finds NGO; incl. cos responses


Photo: Sam Nabi
Hosting this peak global conference in a climate and rights abusing state was bad enough. Equidem’s research starkly reveals that the UAE is failing on almost every metric of the UN’s own human rights benchmarks for addressing climate change through the COP process.
Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem

In November 2023, Equidem released a report, titled “Unjust Transitions: Climate Migration, Heat Stress, and Labour Exploitation in the United Arab Emirates”, exploring alleged human rights violations against migrant workers in the renewable energy sector, the gig sector, and in Expo City Dubai, where COP28 will be held this year. The findings are based on correspondence with 248 workers and interviews with 102 workers, in investigations carried out between February 2023 and October 2023.

The report finds 57% of workers interviewed came from climate impacted regions of Asia or Africa, suggesting people are migrating for work due to climate impacts in origin countries. Upon arrival, workers experienced a range of abuses, including:

  • Discrimination – 41% of workers reported experiencing discrimination due to their nationality.
  • Unsuitable or unsanitary living conditions – 77% of workers reported living in overcrowded accommodation.
  • Limited access to food and low wages – 83% of workers from Africa and Asia reported being unable to afford nutritious and health food. 40% of workers said they were skipping meals.

The report finds workers are ‘doubly impacted’ by the climate crises: by migrating due to climate change, and then facing exploitation and long hours in extreme heat upon arrival.

These rights violations take place against a backdrop of racially delineated exclusion from labour rights protections, denial of freedom of association, and authoritarian suppression of dissent in the UAE.

Other labour rights violations found in the report include violence, wage theft, heat exposure, occupational health and safety violations, exploitative recruitment practices, unreasonable working hours, and inadequate channels for workers to seek remedy following abuse, alongside other violations.

Among those reportedly impacted are migrants employed by Talabat subcontractors, Siemens Energy subcontractors, and workers employed by companies in Expo City Dubai. Workers employed at several large renewable energy projects, including Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Al Dhafra Solar Power Project, Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant, and Sir Bani Yas Wind Farm Project also experienced rights abuse.

In December 2023, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Expo City Dubai, Siemens Energy, and Talabat to respond to allegations of exploitative working conditions linked to their operations or supply chains; to outline the steps they take to ensure the human rights of migrant workers in their operations and supply chains are respected, including those employed by subcontractors; and, to outline the steps they have taken or will take to provide assistance, financial or otherwise, to the impacted workers. Responses from Expo City Dubai, Siemens Energy and Talabat responses can be read in full below.

Launch video: Unjust Transitions: Climate Migration Heat Stress and Labour Explotation in the United Arab Emirates

Company Responses

Siemens Energy AG View Response
Dubai Expo City View Response
Talabat (part of Delivery Hero) View Response