Social Disparity in the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, a relatively young nation, whose history with slavery is engrained and deep-rooted within the minds of its people. In recent years, the nation’s treatment of Asian migrants has been a contentious issue of discussion and dispute. The majority of the population in the UAE are migrants, with no hopes of ever attaining citizenship, in search of employment and a better livelihood. These migrants originate from many regions of Asia, including countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines amongst many others.  Although this statement may be true, one must not justify the human rights abuses they face and the disparity between nationalities in this Arab Nation (and others) against migrant Asian workers.

Growing up in the United Arab Emirates has given me a different perspective on this situation. I was raised in a society steeped in the importance of a social hierarchy, where migrant Asian workers were most commonly at the bottom. Though painful to admit, one does become accustomed to the repression that these workers face, their strained faces of desperation on the sides of roads lessen in impact the more frequently one passes. Their accommodation, built with scrapped wood, on the edges of construction sites becomes a norm. Many forget that the men who work tirelessly, who built the majority of the infrastructure of the UAE, are just as human as the rest of us, that they too have families and the hope of a brighter future.

Of course, steps are being taken to improve the livelihoods of these migrant workers and the implementation of a system which ensures human rights are being met is slowly materialising.  The nation has improved significantly in their treatment towards these workers: charities have been established to offer aid, adequate accommodation to house the millions of workers is under construction, and basic social amenities such as healthcare are being granted. However, the social attitude and discrimination against these fellow human beings must be transformed. Once these hurdles are overcome, the true transformation of human rights in the United Arab Emirates can take place.

Emily Nura Cunniffe

UWC AC ’11-’13


One thought on “Social Disparity in the United Arab Emirates

  1. Hello Emily.
    LPC ‘Students Against Slavery’ are trying to encourage all UWC’s to unite against slavery and human trafficking as every country on our planet is involved in it. Our group is having considerable success in Hong Kong so please get in touch for more information.

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