Panel discusses Asian expat workers' woes
Dubai, January 21, 2008
Officials from more than 20 labour importing and exporting countries met in Abu Dhabi to discuss the regulation of the market for Asian migrants amid growing calls for their protection from abuse.
Asian workers fill all sorts of low-paid construction, domestic, retail, manufacturing and agricultural jobs across the Gulf, often outnumbering the nationals.
The issue of migrant workers' rights has come into focus in recent months as the weak dollar means the real value of their remittances have fallen. Most are paid in dollar-linked Gulf currencies and the issue has led to strikes and riots in Dubai.
The two-day meeting organised with the International Organisation for Migration includes the 10 Asian labour-exporting countries that meet under what is known as the Colombo Process to discuss their contract migrant workers.
It is the first time that a labour-receiving country hosts the meeting which will bring together fellow Gulf labour importers as well as Yemen, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.
Human Rights Watch urged officials to discuss 'widespread violations of workers' rights', saying abuses include unpaid wages, confiscation of passports, deception on recruitment and, in some cases, physical violence.
'It is encouraging that representatives from countries that send and receive migrant workers will sit at the same table,' said Human Rights Watch senior researcher for women's rights division Nisha Varia.-TradeArabia News Service