United Arab Emirates


No guarantee of rights

Same as last year

Workers' rights violations

Workers excluded from labour protections

In the United Arab Emirates, foreign workers represented 89 per cent of the workforce. Under the kafala system, any attempt at escaping or fleeing an employer in the UAE is punishable by law. Runaway workers are imprisoned, deported, and face significant financial costs, including paying back their employers for the sponsorship fees without receiving salaries earned.

Horrendous reports of abuses have been exposed, like the case of a Nepali woman working as a domestic worker in a household in Dubai who was repeatedly sexually abused by her employer, his son and their relatives. Unable to escape, the 28-year-old tried to kill herself twice. She also tried to flee from the house, but to no avail. She then gave in to her employer’s demands, in the hope that it would help her escape. She managed to return home after two years of physical and mental exploitation.

Workers excluded from labour protections

In June 2021, 700 migrant workers from Africa were detained in the United Arab Emirates, denied access to legal or medical support. They were then deported. In 2021, migrant workers in the UAE were often denied timely payment of their wages and adequate overtime payments.

Workers excluded from labour protections

On 1 October 2021, the Dubai EXPO, a six-month international fair which welcomed 25 million visitors, opened in the United Arab Emirates. Despite the government’s promises, migrant workers across the country continued to suffer severe and frequent labour abuse. The almost eight million workers in the UAE remained at risk of suffering severe abuse facilitated by employment via the exploitative kafala system, with poor enforcement of regulation and with workers’ freedom to change employer curtailed. The most commonly reported types of abuse were conditions of employment (76 per cent); precarious and inadequate housing (56 per cent); arbitrary denial of freedoms (42 per cent); health and safety (39 per cent); verbal/physical abuse (13 per cent); human trafficking (5 per cent); deaths (5 per cent) and injuries (4 per cent).

Workers’ rights in law

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