December 14th, 2009
03:31 AM GMT
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MEERUT, India - Sajid, a tileworker from Andhra Pradesh, India, heard Dubai was a kind of paradise: A land of beautiful beaches, clean roads and plenty of high pay.  So he did what many of his friends and fellow Indians had done.  He paid an agent to fix him a job and went to Dubai.

Indians top the global list of migrant workers: more Indians leave their country to find work and send back money, called remittances, than citizens of any other country. The Indian Government estimates there are over five million Indian workers overseas, with 90 percent of them in the Gulf region.  Most of them are considered temporary migrants.

If you travel through the south Indian state of Kerala, it is easy to spot the homes and stores built by remittances.  Ask locals where the money comes from, and “Dubai money” is often the answer.  Kerala has the greatest number of migrants to that Gulf nation.

Sajid and other locals estimate there were more than 35,000 others who came from their area, looking for a better future.  They are from Meerut, a dusty north Indian city that sprawls into house plots being carved from former farmland.

In Dubai, Sajid says he lived in a camp with other workers, where water would run out.  He says there was often no cooking gas, so he and his friends would borrow gas from other camps to make their meals.  Life was difficult, he said, but for several years, it was fine.  He was able to save money and sent it back to his parents, his brothers and sisters, his wife and five children.

About eight months ago, Sajid says, his boss came to him and his fellow workers and told them to work faster.  “Do more in less time,” Sajid says he was told.  Sajid didn’t know what was happening but started to realize something was wrong when he saw other workers being ‘sent back.’

Then his pay stopped for a month, and then two, until he was owed six months pay.

He and his fellow Muslim workers were told to go home for the festival of Eid and they’d get a lump sum on return.  Sajid says they went, believing that they’d be happy to get their money in one chunk.  But before he left, he was told to sign a paper in English.  He couldn’t read it but says he thought it was a form for his leave.

While home for Eid, he got a call saying his visa was cancelled since he’d resigned.   It was then Sajid understood he’d been tricked into signing a resignation form.  Sajid has heard nothing since that phone call, and doubts he’ll get his money.

His father Shahabuddine has had to sell his land in Meerut to pay debts, including payments on the more than $2,000 that was owed to the agent that sent Sajid to Dubai.

Sajid has been trying to find local tilework – the only trade he knows – but says work in Meerut will only pay enough for him and his family to live from day to day.

In spite of his bad experience, Sajid says, he’d go back to Dubai if the work picked up.  For Sajid, and millions of other Indians, a place like Dubai is still the best hope for a better future.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Cindy

    The government of Dubai should take responsibility and set up an office to deal with and respond to complaints of this nature. The workers should be compensated.

    December 14, 2009 at 5:05 am |
  2. Sunita

    And this is the problem, these workers don't learn. If after all he has been through he is still willing to go back then employers in the middle east will always treat their workers like this. I understand its a simple concept of supply and demand. There is a higer supply of these workers then demand so they will take the bad conditions. If they want things to change they need to wake up and get smarter. India is growing and there are so many opportunities in your own country, why are you going to the Gulf, where you get no respect and are treated like dirt?? Money can be made in India too, just be smart

    December 14, 2009 at 5:50 am |
  3. Gabriel

    "Nakheel bond to be paid in full

    Abu Dhabi and UAE Central Bank give $10b in support, Dubai Government authorises release of $4.1b which will be used to pay Nakheel's bond and expected to announce new legal framework"

    For more details, check the link below

    Note also that on Nov 25th Dubai raised USD 5 billion from 2 UAE banks.

    Personal comments from a Canadian expat living in the UAE:

    Dubai and the UAE have been a symbol of hope of green gardens may springing from the desert, of people from all over the world making a better life that the one they had in their home country, like the ones from the Indian subcontinent mentioned in the article above. UAE has been giving many people opportunities to put their abilities and skilld to better use.
    As result, "Dubai money" was instrumental for those people in Kerala to build those new houses and improve their lives.

    Some people expressed their envy with regards to the Dubai / UAE story, almost like enjoying the "doon and gloom" cast on Dubai and the UAE.
    Right or wrong, they are entitled to their opinion, and likewise they are entitled to read today's news.

    I would appreciate mass media, CNN in particular, giving this piece of information the credit it deserves.

    Thank you

    December 14, 2009 at 6:12 am |
  4. Paul Zhu

    I am so sorry to hear this story about this nightmare for so many migrant workers from India. It seems they are similar to the Disvanteged Groups in China, exploited by various greedy agents and employers, they have little to save for a rainy day. No body, no body deserves to be unpaid even for one day as a result of financial bankruptcy, especially for the ones who are living by the edge and travelling thousands of miles away from home in order just to make a living. As one saying goes in China, where there is oppression, there is protest. Possibly, or hopefully, that one day, all men on earth are treated with equal opportunities and dignity.

    December 17, 2009 at 6:34 am |
  5. Andreas, Stockholm

    It is time for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee. The old saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch" is a classic because it is true. Those who stlll believe in 'no-taxes' and 'regulation free market economies' are most probably part of the more affluant part of society. The belief in Friedman'omics and the unfallability of the unfettered capitalistic model often ignore or wish away one factor of human behavior – greed and abuse of power. In a perfect world where everyone followed a moral code on par with their faith we would not have problems like this. Reality ofcourse is quite different which raises the question – those who believe in this unfettered capitalistic model – do they also believe in a society without police and courts? Some may react and say that these are two completely different things, but if you think about it are they really? In the story above abuse of power, moral bankrupt behavior and deceipt are what I sense and in a 'free' region such as Dubai there is most probably no realistic way for these people to get any kind of retribution.

    I come from a society that is very different from these tax-havens in many ways. A lot of people here see the fast pace of development, the luxurious flair and economic lure of places like Dubai and feel a sense of envy. Now this has changed quite dramatically and people perceive a hidden truth behind that success story, one that exposes the abuse of labor, inflated assets and a weak to non-existant legal system. I hope that this crisis in Dubai leads to proper reforms on many fronts including the rights of migrant workers' compensation and living conditions.

    December 18, 2009 at 5:51 am |
  6. Peter Jacobson

    The most obvious argument we would state is that "The government of Dubai should take responsibility".

    However when one actually sees the working conditions, the living conditions, the health conditions of these migrant "labor" workers; one realizes that the Dubai government is indirectly sponsoring these activities and turning a blind eye towards such inhumane conditions. Top it off with working for 12-14 hrs for 6 days a week and no paycheck for 4-6 months.

    The Sheikh & his local arab citizens live just about 5-7 miles away from some of these camps, and they are well aware of what is going on in their country. Sadly they are NOT ashamed of what they have allowed for so many years.

    January 6, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  7. bobby

    Their blood built Dubai. Sadly no one will get their money returned,=I bought real estate, Minc property resold my home and kept the money, The government refused to step in, Can CNN help?,, Can you cnn do an live tv Harldo Rivera on dubai fraud.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

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