NGO slams German firm's deal with abuse-accused UAE contractor

Dubai Expo's German Pavilion working with UAE firm accused of serious rights abuses: rights group
2 min read
08 May, 2021
The UAE's Transguard group has been accused of a number of abuses against migrant workers, according to a London-based rights group.
The Dubai Expo 2020 was rescheduled for October 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic [Getty]
A leading rights group has slammed the company operating the German Pavilion at the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 for working with a firm accused of serious abuses against migrant workers.

The German Pavilion, which will be one of the event's key attractions, will showcase German innovation and solutions in the field of sustainability.

Koelnmesse, the company operating the German Pavillion, has signed a framework agreement with the UAE's Transguard Group to provide security, cleaning and laundry services during the Dubai Expo.

In a press release, the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) cited several reports alleging abuses by Transguard against migrant workers.

The group claims that Koelnmesse did not provide satisfactory evidence that effective human rights due diligence was undertaken before signing a contract with Transguard.

The BHRRC said the Emirati firm has withheld passports and wages of migrant workers, paid below minimum wage, imposed forced contract changes, deducted end-of-service benefits and issued terminations without notice.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it has also allegedly offered inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing for workers.

"It is concerning that as the German parliament prepares to adopt a milestone human rights due diligence law at home, a German company overseas declines to set out what steps it took to ensure migrant worker rights would be protected," said Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager at the BHRRC.

“Koelnmesse has chosen to engage a company with a questionable human rights record, whose workers have repeatedly told human rights NGOs, activists and the media corroborating reports of their appalling treatment. All companies have a responsibility to conduct thorough, meaningful human rights due diligence when entering into contracts with business partners or service providers, and should be prepared to disclose safeguards to mitigate abuses."

The BHRRC released a briefing in October 2019 highlighting the risks to migrant workers in the UAE.

The briefing called on clients such as the Dubai Expo and German Pavilion to award contracts to companies with evident commitments to labour rights, and for companies to adopt and enforce robust protections for migrant workers, including against many of the issues reported by Transguard workers.

Around 190 countries are expected to take part in the Dubai Expo 2020, which will take place in October 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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