Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dubai's Slumdogs and Millionaires

BBC's Ben Anderson and the 'slumdogs' of Dubai.

BBC's Ben Anderson took a journey to Dubai reported a great taboo in that very sand pit. He took a great risk of delivering an undercover report on the dire conditions of migrant laborers. I am PROUD of Ben on how he made his piece -- he dug well and deep on the topic. Perhaps his documentary was inspired from the movie Slumdog Millionare, hence it was titled as Slumdogs and Millionaires

Dubai is one of the many playgrounds of the rich and famous. Naomi Campbell held a low profile birthday party, Michael Jackson shopping while in an undercover abaya, and a lot of world-renowned celebrities on real estate madness

It came as a great surprise to me, as I watch BBC World news; the screen suddenly switched to image of laborers plastering a wall from a high-rise edifice. The same image shook me when that same laborer seems to be working without a safety harness. Following frame shows laborers crying, Ben's camera showing human feces all over the toilet from a laborer camp and a dozen of captured emotions. 

Somehow, it feels like my previous post was a prelude to this documentary, I mentioned about their living conditions and their proximity from the main civilization of Dubai. 

Laborers are unskilled and mainly hired from South Asia continent, at least a hundred of thousands work in Dubai. They are sourced from the most rural villages and slums. Monthly average salary is 650 dirhams (USD 176) including 60 cents for overtime. They have 12 hours of daily work, six days a week. They are brought to Dubai through a recruiter they paid for averaging USD 1,000 which is loaned and eventually paid in installments. 

The best way to get the cheapest laborer is by determining their literacy. These people have limited to none English skills, Arabic skills and even Hindi language skills. One must have a very low esteem so it would be easy to manage (dictate) them. It's not easy to complain when one is illiterate and mediocre.

Although housing is free, it is not for normal human beings to inhabit. In the report, an agent said to Ben, "You wouldn't keep cattle in this building." They live as a bunch in a cramped room. They have a kitchen but cooking gas is not provided by some employers. I would say this again, Ben's camera captured human feces scattered in the toilet on one of the labor camps. 

This guy works a 12-hours day and no washing machine. The sack on the bottom-left corner contains charcoal for cooking.

Hunger is another experience they have taken from time to time. Since their homes are from the isolated districts of Dubai, shopping centers are far. They cannot just use transport at their will since it's limited and costly. I also have a share of experience about this; I was with a PR company and our client was Aggreko (a rental power provider). It was Ramadan so our client decided to host an Iftar dinner in a labor camp, that was in the far west of Dubai where you'll see gigantic sand dunes and possibly some stray camels. It was a camp of 500 men. Of course, we have a minion of press people with pens and camera to cover the 'staged event' (oxymoron?). Food was great, a smorgasbord of Indian cuisine. But what noticed me most was the level of enthusiasm of the laborers. Some faces glowed, some had a great social time and some ate quickly - headed for the next round. In my point of view, the feeding event was like a temporary break from a dreadful exile... 

But these laborers are not stupid! After getting and work in Dubai, they described their lives like a prison sentence and after 2-3 years, they face home with nothing. Many of them even failed to cover their past debts (recruitment money). 

FOR YOUR INFORMATION: They are being used to build wonderlands for the ultra-rich of Dubai. All buildings in Dubai are built by them, the South Asians. 

Only mothers can love them so well and men should not deny their dignity.

The rich denies the reality. They claim that it was built with pride... In reality, all Dubai structures from sweat, blood and tears... some even with their lives. These so-called ultra-rich have failed to reach out further on these wretched laborer soul. 
Do not be deceived, Dubai's luxury living is made up of million miseries of men. 


  1. I couldn't agree more! This is just so true.

  2. Nice blog here john..

    It is so sad to see these people work too hard and for what? For nothing.. $176 monthly salary? OMG!

  3. Hey Reesie!

    This is just one of the many horror stories of Dubai.

  4. Imagine our kababayans have to work abroad, leave their families behind for 6,000 pesos? They don't even have a decent place to live in for petesakes! Plus they are paying $1000 to their recruiting agencies!This is one issue also- these agencies are making more money than these hardworking laborers!!!!!! Hmpt!

    It so sad and frustrating, you know.

  5. Well, there's a lot of stories too on our disadvantaged fellows.

    But these South Asian guys are having the direst existence among expats in Dubai...

  6. Thanks for sharing John.. I have no clue about the plight of South Asian workers plight in Dubai until napadpad ako sa blog mo. :D

  7. You are welcome, Reesie...

    Anything inside concerning Dubai, I could easily handle.

    I'm putting more insight and personal experience to the readers - giving them an informed choice, especially who aspires to go to Dubai.

    It's not what it seems to be.

  8. i need a hug. grabe! i honestly need a hug after reading the entire article.

  9. nice blog. very true and very informative!

  10. Hi John!

    Great post! Napadalaw na ako sa imong balay. This is indeed true. What we are seeing in luxurious Dubai is made from the blood and sweat of the migrant workers there.

    Sila ang naging uber kawawa noong natamaan na ng global financial crisis ang Dubai.

  11. Silver!

    It makes one furious to know that these workers are not given the proper respects. Those fat cats have blind eyes on their hell-on-earth conditions.

  12. Lee wrote:
    I heard this stories,I stayed in Bangladesh for 10yrs, they even get $100 per month in middle east(worker from Bangladesh).

  13. Hi! very nice post, yan talaga ang katotohanan, the rich are getting richer and the poor remain poor, their income there is just for survival, my niece works in dubai for 3 years and what she earned is just 12k a month, not even enough for herself to survive there, there are lot of untold stories about dubai, we've been there for a week, hope that our fellow filipinos will think 100x before going there,thanks john, sa visit sa blog ko

  14. this is what I'm mad about. I've been a witness to a lot of filipino workers here in ksa, overworked and underpaid, treated like animals, but their giant employers have mountains of things they cant even enjoy!

  15. this made me cry. total exploitation of people from poor countries. it is modern slavery.