Friday, July 27, 2007

The "Invisible Men" Seen Naked

There's outrage in the Gulf over naked workers walking in public view. The Secret Dubai Diary says, "accompanied by what must be the least effectively pixellated photo in the history of digital imaging, Gulf News reports that a Dubai labour camp has become "a virtual nudist colony" due to the summer heat."

One commenter at the Gulf News site writes:

I don't think most people who are commenting on this article realize what type of harsh conditions these labourers work in. They are not fed well, they share there accommodation with a minimum of ten other people in a cramped room with barely any comfort. Most people who live in Dubai are living in a bubble of wealth driving their Ferraris and Porsches and living in grand style with there executive salaries. I used to work as a consultant for a major contractor that helped develop some prime real estate in the Dubai Marina area; I have seen what type of abuse these labourers go through daily. They barely get fed a proper meal twice daily if they are lucky and work under the sun for a minimum of ten hours at least six days a week. If they are lucky they make maybe around three hundred dollars a month. If they are walking around naked they are doing so at the labour camps which are 100 per cent filled with expat labourers comprised of mostly Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani men who pay a lot of money to come to Dubai only to find cheated and have no choice to work to pay off their debt to the scamming recruiting agencies. People in the UAE need to wake up and have a look around at what is really going on in there country.


While the immigration debate in the US focuses on whether illegal aliens should be allowed to send their children to school and avail of social services, the plight of the vast torrent of expatriate workers from poor countries in the Middle East is virtually ignored. They are today's invisible men. Some reckon that expatriates make up half the entire labor force of Saudi Arabia. While some expatriates, typically those with American or Western passports, make up the highly paid upper tier of the labor force and live in splendid conditions, at the lower end workers live exactly as Saleem described them. Its a world of hidden from view where the inhabitants must make shift as best they can. They even worship in secret. Parts of the Vicariate of Arabia -- perhaps millions of Christians -- must survive in a virtual underground church in a place where no religion but Islam is allowed.

And in some ways, people like Saleem are far more outspoken in their criticism of the system than so-called humanitarians in the West, who will provide every legal courtesy to suspects in Guantanamo Bay, but remain indifferent, if not ignorant of men who must work stripped down to their skin in order to remit a pittance back to their families at home.

They are the invisible men, but unlike the character of Wells, only excite attention when they're not wearing clothes.


Blogger sam said...

This is my first post as a long-time reader and admirer of this blog. I'm glad to see attention being paid to the plight of these workers. I worked for six years in Abu Dhabi and I'll never forget the gaunt looks on the faces of those men crammed into the dark backs of old sheep trucks staring out at us in the morning while stopped at a red light. We were all expatriots on our way to work, but what a staggering gulf lay between us.

I remember how at my office I would keep a separate window open on my computer during key cricket matches so the cleaners could check the scores. Those guys from the poor villages of Kerala spoke better English than the pampered officers we were charged with training. I will say that the Emiratis I trained were generally good guys, but those workers were truly invisible to them. Thanks for featuring a post on their lonely behalf.

7/28/2007 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger Russell Snow said...

I worked for 3 years in Riyadh. In our underground fellowship we had several TCNs (Third Country Nationals.) What is your responsibility to a fellow believer when you make more before lunch than he makes in a month?
These guys are treated pretty bad as a rule.

7/28/2007 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Starling said...

Having lived in the UAE and Qatar the last two years, I can attest to what Saleem and the others say about the plight of the South East Asian workers.

I also take note that Saleem makes his criticism from the safe confines of California.

I say this not to discredit or diminish his commentary. Rather, I make note of the fact that few Gulf country nationals seem to share his concern and fewer still have the civil courage to speak out publicly.

7/28/2007 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/29/2007 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I say we go with the Israeli solution and give them the country. GWB can then apply semantics such as a two, three, four, etc., state solution.

7/29/2007 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

I too lived in the UAE for sometime. Saleem's complaint is valid.

I worked four-1/2 days a week (and with sufficient dealing could make the last 1/2 day an easy one every other week) and not for a full eight hours either. Shop clerks and the like worked six-1/2 days/week and it looked like a 10 hour day was pretty standard.

Do not think it was just the locals getting rough with the ex-pat labor either. The ex-pat managers often times would join in.

I employed a maid while I was there and others who employed this woman's service griped I paid her too much.

7/30/2007 07:28:00 PM  

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