Logo en Global Donate now


Document Details


Print and save

Journal article

Enforcing Migrant Workers’ Rights in the United Arab Emirates




David Keane and Nicholas McGeehan


The appalling treatment of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who constitute 80% of the population and 95% of the workforce, has largely escaped international scrutiny. The paper analyses the failure to protect migrant workers’ rights in the UAE from a domestic and an international perspective. It outlines the extent of the abuses and demonstrates how the states’ weak domestic laws have been further undermined by poor enforcement mechanisms and a lack of political will to address the issues. It examines violations of international human rights law and possible avenues to redress, notably those relating to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965, one of the only three international human rights treaties that the UAE has ratified. Furthermore, the paper will argue that the UAE’s exploitation of the relative economic weakness of its South Asian neighbor has led to a situation that can be characterized as bonded labor of migrant workers, a form of slavery as defined under international law. It will be concluded that domestic labor provision in the UAE will never be sufficient to provide basic rights to migrant workers due to the de facto control o the private sector by the public sector. Therefore, concerted international attention and pressure will be required to improve a situation in which over two million workers live in terrible conditions, wholly at odds with the wealth and luxury of the country they have helped to build.

Journal title

International Journal on Minority and Group Rights



Page numbers



International Journal on Minority and Group Rights



migrant workers in UAE, protection mechanism analysis

Economic sectors

General relevance - all sectors

Content types

Policy analysis and Support initiatives

Target groups

Policymakers, Researchers, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses

Regional relevance

Spheres of activity

Law and Social work