Construction

Indian PM Modi visits labour camp in Abu Dhabi

Prime minister’s visit seen as putting a spotlight on welfare of migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf

PHOTO: Narendra Modi with workers at the ICAD residential city in Abu Dhabi. Credit: WAM

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday visited a labour camp in Abu Dhabi, in a move said to highlight India’s concern about the welfare of its migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf.

The prime minister met with Indian workers based in the ICAD residential city in Abu Dhabi, which provides accommodation to 50,000 residents, state news agency WAM reported.

Modi’s visit comes amid increasing scrutiny on the Gulf states over the plight of migrant workers in the construction sector, as the region gears up to host mega-events like the Expo 2020 in Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

About 2.6 million Indians live and work in the UAE, of which about 60% are blue-collar workers, according to figures from the Indian embassy. 

Modi engaged in conversation with the workers at ICAD and thanked them for their hard work and dedication, it was reported.

“He wants to convey that the safety, security and welfare conditions for Indian workers should not be ignored,” a senior Indian government official told Reuters in New Delhi.

“The Indian government is aware that the UAE will employ thousands of Indian workers to organise the World Expo 2020, but after the recent Qatar experience, the government wants to send a clear message that India will not allow rampant exploitation of its workers.”

According to figures issued by Amnesty International in May this year, 279 migrant Indian workers died in Qatar in 2014. The figure includes worker deaths from all causes, including fatalities not directly related to labour conditions.

In June, the Indian embassy in the UAE announced that companies in the Emirates looking to hire blue-collar workers from India have to get a permit from Indian missions to do so.

All foreign employers seeking to recruit Indian workers need to register through the government’s eMigrate system, after which the registration application would be vetted by the Indian Mission. Employers could then seek a permit to either recruit directly or select from approved recruitment agents online. The move is part of wider efforts to bring more transparency to the recruiting process and cut down on worker exploitation.

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