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4 May 2021

UAE: German Dubai Expo Pavilion contracts security & cleaning services from Transguard, co. repeated object of abuse allegations from workers; incl. co. responses

During the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been left in the Gulf without pay, employment or means of returning home by employers. Many did not receive appropriate PPE or medical care. UAE-headquartered facilities management company Transguard Group was among those named in allegations of abuse against migrant workers. In April 2021, it was announced that Transguard had signed a framework agreement with the German Pavilion to provide security, cleaning and laundry services during the Dubai Expo.

Reports published by NGOs Migrant-Rights.org and Equidem in September and November 2020, and by The Nation in October 2020 allege the payment of recruitment fees by Transguard workers, unpaid wages, wages lower than contractually promised, inadequate PPE & lack of testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, forced contract changes, terminations with no notice and deductions from end-of-service benefits, allegedly in contravention of UAE labour law and directives. Comments from Transguard can be read in the Migrant-Rights.org’s report.

The Resource Centre invited Koelnmesse, the company contracted to organise and run the German Pavilion to set out the human rights due diligence process it undertook prior to contracting Transguard, and to disclose any findings or steps it took to ensure the issues were addressed satisfactorily. Koelnmesse’s response can be read in full below, though it does not address the request to disclose their due diligence process. We also invited the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce to do the same; their response can be found below.

"It is concerning that as the German parliament prepares to adopt a milestone human rights due diligence law at home, a German company overseas declines to set out what steps it took to ensure migrant worker rights would be protected, Koelnmesse has chosen to engage a company with a questionable human rights record, whose workers have repeatedly told human rights NGOs, activists and the media corroborating reports of their appalling treatment. All companies have a responsibility to conduct thorough, meaningful human rights due diligence when entering into contracts with business partners or service providers, and should be prepared to disclose safeguards to mitigate abuses."
Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Company Responses

Koelnmesse View Response
German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK) View Response