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UAE police arrest dozens of unpaid striking workers as riots break out in Abu Dhabi

Striking workers overturned cars and damaged company property [Twitter]

Date of publication: 19 May, 2020

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Clashes have broken out in an industrial area of Abu Dhabi between workers striking over non-payment of salaries and UAE police.
Clashes broke out in the Musaffah industrial area of the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi on Tuesday between striking workers and police, with dozens of people arrested.

The protesting workers were from the Sawaeed Holding investment company and had not been paid their salaries for three months.

Twitter users posted videos of enraged workers destroying company property and upturning cars, suggesting that the protests were very widespread.

Witnesses said that UAE police stormed the area and arrested dozens of workers.

Migrant workers in the Gulf are often subject to low wages, exploitation and mistreatment, and have little or no legal protection from abusive employers.

The “kafala” sponsorship system, which gives employers power over expatriate workers’ legal rights to stay in Gulf countries, effectively putting workers at the mercy of employers, has been criticised by human rights groups around the world.

Last month, a UN humanitarian coordinator slammed Saudi Arabia for deporting thousands of Ethiopian workers en masse after the coronavirus pandemic struck, saying that this action endangered the health of the workers.

Read more: As coronavirus hits the Gulf, don't forget about migrant workers

Some 35 million labourers work in the six Arab Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Jordan and Lebanon, according to UN figures.

Foreigners far outnumber locals in the Gulf states, accounting for over 80 percent of the population in some countries.

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