Dubai's Migrant Construction Workers Bear Brunt of Downturn

The economic downturn is hurting Dubai, as glitzy skyscraper projects come to a halt. But the biggest pain is being felt among the hundreds of thousands of migrant construction workers who came to the city seeking their fortunes.

"The global economic recession and the construction slowdown have hit hard in the Middle East's most lavish metropolis. The massive construction boom of the last six years, which lured hundreds of thousands of expatriates, has come to a screeching halt."

"Everyone from architects to marketing agents is losing jobs. But arguably, those suffering most are the migrant laborers who sold everything back home in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, or elsewhere to come make money stacking bricks, watering lawns, and cleaning floors."

"...The government does little to remedy the problem, charges Nicholas McGeehan, who as a former oil company contractor in the Emirates from 2002-06 got insight on the issue from within the system."

"'The government knows exactly what is going on, because the same guys who run the government own the construction companies and the developers,' writes Mr. McGeehan by e-mail from Italy, where he runs an organization called Mafiwasta, which addresses migrant labor issues in the Gulf. He describes the government's treatment of migrants as 'ruthless, arrogant, racist, and greedy.'"

Full Story: Dubai's glitz lost in grim life



Karama-Dubai: Reality Check

The writer of this story says... “In Dubai's gritty Indian neighborhood of Karama, far from the luxury hotels and glitzy malls…”

Reality check:
Karama is a centrally-located neighbourhood in Bur Dubai, mainly consisting of 4-story residential flats almost always with ground floor commercial, a new-urbanist neighbourhood well established before the concept was popularised by the readers of this blog. BTW… Karama is more Filipino than Indian. Its not gritty at all. Most of the flats are not more than 20 years old, some are quite new, in fact, if not terribly spacious nor luxurious. Because of its central location, Karama is a popular choice for relatively affordable, if modest, close-in housing. Most of the ACad staff in my office live there. It is certainly not “gritty.” It’s a lively neighbourhood, full of retail activity with loads of places to eat. For whatever its worth, they have McDonalds, Jollibee, KFC, Burger King, Hardees… plus Indian, Chinese, Paki, Filipino, Lebanese restaurants, you name it, not to mention plenty of grocery stores and supermarkets. There is a big LuLu’s in the middle of Karama and Spinney’s (Dubai’s answer to Safeway) is across the road from Karama. In the center of Karama is a large, heavily-used public park… I walk through it every day. As for being "far from the luxury hotels…" the western edge of Karama is right across the road from Bur Juman, one of Dubai’s “glitzy malls,” which includes, of course, a high-rise luxury hotel. Finally, along the same western edge of Karama runs the new Dubai Metro which will open in September…. and there is a Karama Station.

I will be happy to include photos of Karama if you like.

I don’t defend the labourer situation in Dubai, especially some of the conditions in Sonapur (Dubai’s biggest labour camp), which have been given a lot of press lately. I would however, at least expect the writers of these kinds of stories to get their facts straight because otherwise it makes me suspicious that they have never set foot in Dubai, and therefore weakens the credibility of what they write.


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