More than Dh205 million in unpaid salaries for workers have been recovered by the General Department of Human Rights in the four years the Human Trafficking Monitor Centre has been running.
Dr. Colonel Mohammed Al Murr, Director of the General Department of Human Rights, said Dubai Police had recovered Dh205,159,693, with a round-the-clock complaint centre receiving 2,707 complaints in four years. Last year saw the highest number of complaints, with 748. All complaints were personal and the police established a team to deal with individual complaints, Dr. Al Murr said. The police had also received 273 collective complaints over the past four years, including 45 last year.
Dr. Al Murr said the Human Rights Department had established a mechanism to contact workers to find out about their conditions and listen to their complaints, conducting 6,758 visits to labour accommodation complexes between 2009 and 2012.
Lt. Col. Dr Sultan Al Jamal, Director of the Centre for Monitoring Human Trafficking of the General Headquarters of Dubai Police, said that of the personal labour complaints received last year, 296 were about non-payment of salaries, which represented 41 per cent of personal complaints, followed by complaints of unfair treatment, cancellation of visas, bad treatment, visa transfers, and salary deductions. The complainants were most likely to be Asian, comprising 81 per cent, with Arabs, Africans and Europeans also making complaints, in descending order of frequency.
Dr. Sultan said that last year, the Human Rights Department conducted 1,768 inspection visits. 1,713 companies were found to be compliant with rules and regulations on the first visit, 15 were found after a further inspection to have complied with the regulations and the department was left to follow up with six companies.
27 companies were found to be in breach of the regulations and seven labour accommodation complexes were ordered to be evacuated as they were considered to be uninhabitable. He said that 97 per cent of companies in Dubai had abided by legal and healthy and safety standards in labour accommodations last year.
Dr. Sultan noted that Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, had approved the methodology prepared by the Higher Committee for Labour Crises Management of the Dubai Police General Department of Human Rights.
He explained that this methodology emphasises the UAE's keenness to support workers demanding their rights within the context of ensuring the rights of all parties and maintaining the national security in the best interest of all residents, including the workers themselves.
He referred to the policy of inspection which aims to monitor the living conditions of the contracted workers and to ensure that they are provided with appropriate housing according to the standards adopted by the competent authorities.
Dr. Sultan said the total number of labour disputes from 2010 till the end of 2012 was 18,587 of which were in 2010, 53 in 2011 and 45 in 2012.
Lt. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police and Chairman of the Higher Committee For Labour Crises Management, stressed the importance of resolving labour issues promptly and in a civilised way to safeguard the interests of all parties, employees and employers alike.
He called for the promotion of a social security culture and for raising of employers' awareness on the importance of providing a decent life for workers and respecting their rights.
Major General Khamis Matar Al Mazeina, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police, said: "We want our experience in dealing with labor disputes to be a kind of behaviour and practice in our history, and not just a slogan. The Dubai Police has been a pioneer in addressing labour crises. We have launched a package of initiatives which have contributed directly to the reduction of labour protests. In addition to the inspection visits which aims to detect any violations in labour camps, workers can make their complaints directly via a dedicated toll-free (8005005). Our successful experience in dealing with labour disputes has reflected positively on the economic projects in the emirate and the work environment in general."
In the same context, a group of journalists, accompanied by Dr. Sultan and officials from the Human Rights Department at Dubai Police, visited labour accommodation complexes at Dulsco Village and the Desert Group, both in Al Quoz, Dubai.
At the Desert Group labour accommodation, the journalists met Hisham Saeed Al Ghaith, Director of Labour Affairs, who gave a presentation on the complex, which accommodates 900 multi-national workers with monthly salaries ranging from Dh700 to Dh2,000, and more than Dh200 for food allowance.
Al Ghaith explained that workers live in a multi-storey building divided into rooms. Each room is equipped with a refrigerator and a TV and can accommodate from 4 to 6 persons.
On each floor, Al Ghaith noted, there is a kitchen with a number of stoves to allow workers to cook food and enjoy it in a special dining room.
Other facilities include a barber's shop, a laundry, a medical clinic with a resident physician and a nurse, a mosque, in addition to free Wi-Fi and satellite channels.
He noted that security staff are available 24 hours and that "the camp has witnessed no violations in the last two years. It is cleaned two times daily, protected with an integrated fire-fighting system and provided with maintenance services for all electronic systems."
Al Ghaith also explained that there was a complaint and recommendation box and a yearly draw to choose around 30 workers to perform Al Umrah on the company's expense, in addition to the weekly shopping trips to help workers buy what they need.
The media delegation also visited Dulsco Village, where around 35,000 workers live. At the first impression, this place was thought to be "an entertainment complex" as it compromises a large sports arena, a gymnasium and an Internet cafe.
Ehab Ezzedine, one of the directors of the village, explained that inhabitants of the Dulsco facility are airport and maintenance workers, mainly from African countries.
"Each room in the Village has a capacity of up to 10 persons and is equipped with a TV and a refrigerator. Each worker has the chance to surf the web for 30 minutes in the Internet cafe which opens from 8:00 am till 10:00 pm, in addition to the free Wi-Fi which is available 24 hours to help workers communicate with their loved ones, especially as they work in shifts." Ezzedine said.
"The compound also has a library which offers newspapers in different languages and a variety of books, 12 dining halls and 24 kitchens where workers can cook food," added Mohammed A'azam, who is in charge of housing services in the Village.
He also told the media delegation that 102 surveillance cameras had been installed in the village, linked to one control room with 7 screens where security staff monitor for any abnormal movement in the place.
A'azam noted that Dulsco Village has been named the best complex of its kind for the last two years.
"A European official visited the compound and praised the clean and organised atmosphere and the provision of all facilities and services like internet, ATM, laundry, kitchens and so on," he said.