Labour Accommodation Gets a Makeover

DUBAI - Mubasar grins as he empties a plate of vegetables into a saucepan of boiling water. Wearing a vest and a sarong, he bats flies from his face saying how life in one of Dubai’s grimmest labour camps is “not so bad”.

By Martin Croucher

Published: Sat 18 Apr 2009, 1:09 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:16 AM

Arabtec’s workers’ accommodation in Nad Al Sheba is being pulled down and employees will be moved to cleaner and more modern labour camps in different areas of Dubai.

However, the accommodation was claimed in a BBC documentary to have “piles of raw faeces” in toilets and areas around the apartment blocks being swamped with sewage.

Two days later, officials from the Ministry of Labour arrived at the accommodation for inspection to verify the claims in the documentary.

Ammar Al Hejawi, Camp Coordinator at Arabtec, said no fineswere issued.

Khaleej Times was granted access to the accommodation on Thursday with a group of other journalists. While conditions had improved markedly since the documentary was filmed, they still fell short of average standards for labour camps in Dubai.

When the tour group arrived, men in blue overalls were seen washing the floors of the 400 toilet blocks, and even sweeping cigarette butts from the cracked dried mud that serves as the streets of the camp.

The accommodation has a capacity of 8,500 workers but only 6,000 live there after Arabtec lost the contract for developing the nearby Meydan racecourse. Even so, a group of journalists were shown to a room where 12 people slept on bunk beds. According to camp boss, Tariq Salar, there were 248 rooms, each housing 12 people, and 748 rooms with six in each room. Broken pipes in one of the men’s restrooms meant that much of the human waste was passed out onto the floor. Even so, the camp was constantly maintained by a large quota of cleaners.

Mahmoud Al Shanti, Arabtec Administration Manager, said that the camp was a temporary accommodation and workers were being moved out to accommodation in Jebel Ali, Al Quozand Mudon.

The group of journalists were also invited to tour two labour camps in Jebel Ali. The standards there were much higher; workers were living no more than six to a room and each room had a television, fridge and in some cases a stereo player. Workers were trained in hygiene standards and the cleanest were taken out for picnics as a reward.

“We teach them how to cook and clean,” said Laxmi Montgomery, Welfare Officer at Arabtec. “We even teach them how to squat to go to the toilet and how to flush the chain.” She said that Arabtec had always prided itself on a high standard of cleanliness at its camps but added that the BBC documentary “really shook us up”.

Meanwhile, the UAE government has announced that it will build 25 workers’ cities which will include modern recreational facilities for labourers. Initially, two will be built in Dubai and three in Abu Dhabi.

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