Ajman’s Inhumanity to Man…

April 29, 2009

A migrant worker in Ajman

A migrant worker in Ajman

Hopefully this will make a few holidaymakers reconsider their plans to recline on the sunbeds of an emirate in the near future.

According to the Khaleej Times, a construction worker has died in the emirate of Ajman after police broke up a protest demanding the payment of salaries. There isn’t a great deal of reliable information about the case – Khaleej relies heavily on police sources (“police had made all efforts to prevent them from damaging property or becoming violent” – yeah, right). But what seems clear is that the workers pretty brutally repressed as they demanded disbursement of their salaries that have been unpaid for 8 months.

The heavily censored Khaleej account gives a flavor of what happened: “On Monday night, the situation turned bad and around 420 protesting workers were about to take to the street. On being alerted by the company management, police patrols rushed to the scene and pacified the workers. In the melee, one of the workers fainted and was rushed to Khalifa Hospital but doctors declared him dead. The doctors told the police that he had died of heart attack.”

A heart attack like the one suffered by Ian Tomlinson at the hands of police on April 1? Quite possibly.

Ajman is one of the United Arab Emirates and is aping Dubai in a quixotic quest for hyper-development and tourist dollars. As with Dubai, it has adopted western property norms, allowing 100 percent freehold ownership, which has stimulated a property boom – or at least it did until the financial collapse caught hold. That boom was underpinned by the flow of tourists, but more so by a flow of readily exploitable migrant workers like those protesting on Monday night.

Conditions experienced by such migrants can be hellish. Aside from the thousands who were coerced into working in Iraq, having expected a different fate, many become stranded and vulnerable when offers of work fail to materialize. According to the National newspaper, 137 Filipino workers are currently stranded in Ajman, having seen adverts for drivers in the Manila press.

The recruitment company told the drivers they would earn Dh5,200 a month each. It is suspected of deploying the workers in Dubai without valid job orders…It is also alleged to have illegally exacted a “placement fee” of 150,000 Philippine pesos (Dh11,538) from each of the workers and issued them with fake employment visas, according to Elmer Joven, a case officer at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Dubai.

Such abuses are commonplace and while hardly exclusive to the Emirates, they underscore what exploitative and unequal places they are.

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