Indians, Pakistanis, and Bachelors in Dubai, oh my!

As you all may know, Dubai has a sizeable Desi population. Dubai is one of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates. According the the US State Department, the population of the U.A.E is 4.3 million. Only 15-20 % are actual citizens of the U.A.E. As of 2003, 93% of the workforce is foreign. South Asians- namely Indians and Pakistanis- make up around 45% of the U.A.E's total population.

Dubai's own population is of 1.4 million, of which 10% is "native" [link]. Its population is mostly composed of expatriates, with South Asians and Southeast Asians comprising the majority. The official language is Arabic, but English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and Malayalam are spoken widely. Dubai is the only emirate that has Hindu mandhirs and a Sikh gurdwaara [Link].

So when I came across the Al Jazeera article Booming Dubai alienating natives, I read it with interest. According to the article, some of the natives- "Emiratis "- are feeling alienated due to the massive influx of migrants that has been brought by the "construction and development" of Dubai:

Many of the small native population are proud of Dubai's achievements, but an increasingly vocal few speak of alienation, question the social and political cost of fast modernisation and even say they should have been consulted.

Suhail al-Awadhi, 37, a senior municipal official, says he "was living three years ago in Hamria [an area in Dubai's historic center], but it was invaded by Indians, Pakistanis and bachelors, so I moved out"...

Al-Awadhi, who is married with four children, said he felt more comfortable and secure living among Emiratis.

"I like the fact that my children play with other Emirati  children," he said.

To escape the feelings of "alienation" and to be amongst their own, some Emiratis have moved out into the suburbs, or on the "fringes" of the city, such as the desert enclaves of Mizher 1 and Mizher 2:

Several kilometres past the city's airport, undergoing a $4.1 billion expansion, are the desert enclaves of Mizher 1 and Mizher 2.

Row after row of new two-storey villas, owned by Emiratis, are fast encroaching on what's left of the desert and a distant oasis.

Certainly, the sentiments voiced in this Al Jazeera article do not represent the views of all Emiratis in Dubai. Furthermore, it's unclear which kind of Desis Al-Awadhi is talking about: the rich Desis who exploit their fellow countrymen/women? Or the "underclass" Desis, the ones who have facilitated Dubai's "boom"?

Dubai's boom is the ongoing result of the simultaneous presence of both the "underclass" and the "overclass". Dubai, classified by Saskia Sassen as an "emerging global city", has manifested the traits of a "global city". Like New York, London and Tokyo, where there is a socio-economic dichotomy that keeps the economy running, Dubai exhibits two facts that Sassen points out in her book The Global City: one, socio-economic polarization go hand in hand. In other words, high income workers are coupled with low wage workers. Secondly, high-income gentrification creates and requires a vast supply of low wage workers. It's no suprise then that Dubai, dubbed as the "Fiscal Paradise", has become a sorts of "Sinister Paradise" at the same time. And where do Desis fit in all of this?

... South Asian contract laborers, legally bound to a single employer and subject to totalitarian social controls, make up the great mass of the population. Dubai lifestyles are attended by vast numbers of Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Indian maids, while the building boom is carried on the shoulders of an army of poorly paid Pakistanis and Indians working twelve-hour shifts, six and half days a week, in the blast-furnace desert heat.

Dubai, like its neighbors, flouts ILO labor regulations and refuses to adopt the international Migrant Workers Convention. Human Rights Watch in 2003 accused the Emirates of building prosperity on "forced labor." Indeed, as the British Independent recently emphasized in an exposé on Dubai, "The labour market closely resembles the old indentured labour system brought to Dubai by its former colonial master, the British." [Link]

Perhaps Emiratis like Al-Awadhi who dislike the presence of "Indians, Pakistanis, and bachelors" should keep in mind that South Asian migrants in Dubai work on near slave labor, have been brought by human trafficking in some instances (such as South Asian "camel jockeys" as young as four years old, who have been sexually and physically abused), and have suffered massive and gross human rights violations. The wealth of Dubai has been fueled by and erected upon the backs of these South Asians, and to look down upon them is ignorant at best.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

This is an absolutely great

This is an absolutely great post. It's so great that I wish it had been published and had received more notoriety than this little old blog can provide for just now. I learned a LOT.

Damn straight Saurav! I've

Damn straight Saurav!
I've been to Dubai a couple of times and my parents are actually contemplating moving out there now that they're hitting retirement age.

In my very limited exeperience there, what you call "slave labor" is to put it lightly (and Filipinos and Malaysians are also in the mix with desis). Many of the service sector workers (16 hour days mind you) I met would discretely drop everything just to chat it up with a fellow desi in Urdu and Hindi, just because, well they didn't have anyone else to talk to aside from the 8 other males they shared their teeny tiny apartments with!

My parents just took a trip out there where the goal was to get to know any many people and insider info as possible to make a well-informed decision (desi taxi drivers were the friendliest and most informed people they met). They came back mildly shocked because they were so overwhelmed with the personal stories they heard from the men they met---families back home they haven't seen in years, long, long shifts and no cash to show for it, no social lives, cramped housing provided by the contractors that brought them over...I'm almost compelled to compare it to coolie labor---but all this stays under the rug behind Dubai's glittering, modern, paradisal facade

thanks for posting signora!

The more I think about it,

The more I think about it, the angrier I am getting about this situation.

I hate how the priveleged always bitch and moan about "illegal aliens", immigrants, and migrants. But they forget that their status as the priveleged is possible BECAUSE of the people they so detest. How else do the rich get obscenely rich if there isn't somebody whose labor output is disproportionate to their earned wages? Somebody needs to do the dirty, backbreaking base work practically for free. This is how it worked in the feudal times-- landowners, kings and queens didn't do shit, but they had an army of indentured servants to work for free. This is how they got filthy rich, able to attain lives of luxury. This is the situation not only in Dubai, but most everywhere where capitalism has been able to take root.

People like to say that "modernization", which is presumably best achieved by capitalism, is "progress". But this kind of "progess" is achieved if you have slave labor--somebody who works 24/7 without barely getting paid. If you ask me, it is another modern variant of feudalism.

/End of rant.

Come to think of it, I

Come to think of it, I suspect that the wage and labor situation of Desi taxi drivers in NYC and probably elsewhere in the US is not too far from the position of Desis in Dubai.

Ok, I will now stop with the running commentary :)

Arabs look down on desis

Arabs look down on desis shocker!

Sadly predictable attitudes in your Desi Italiana. I visited Dubai for the first time recently and I felt very uncomfortable with the position of South Asians in society, despite staying with an Arab friend.

What I find most irksome is the sheer reverence which with desis talk about Dubai and the gulf. Those who work there may have reasons - that's another debate - but from Britain, British Asians love to visit Dubai. This is just the same way they love to sit in Arab sheesha bars in London. In both places the majority of Arab clientele and staff look down upon them and I'm damned if I'm going to give any business to people like that - be it a London sheesha bar or Dubai's economy.

The attitude towards Asians - subcontinent, Filipinos etc in the middle east makes me viscerally sick. I equally detest the doormat mentality of so many desis.

Nice to see you, Rohin :)

Nice to see you, Rohin :) :

Sadly predictable attitudes in your Desi Italiana

Er....?????? Maybe a word or two is missing here? :)
Judging from the content of your comment, I am guessing that you don't mean to say that my attitude and take on this situation is "sadly predictable"? :)

I equally detest the doormat mentality of so many desis.

So do I. This is why I state in my post:

it’s unclear which kind of Desis Al-Awadhi is talking about: the rich Desis who exploit their fellow countrymen/women?

I haven't been able to research this in depth, but I do know that Desis often are the middlemen in the human trafficking of their fellow countrymen.

Whoops. Missing 'post'. I

Whoops. Missing 'post'. I didn't mean your attitude was predictable - but you knew that.

Desis being complicit in trafficking their compatriots is of course morally reprehensible, and indeed I hadn't really considered that aspect of things. However I also know of many desis who have flocked to the middle east, fully aware of the shit they would face. Are they really so desperate? I honestly don't know. I guess they would have to be, so I cannot judge them. But I hope it's a significant amount of money that is sufficient for these people to live as second class citizens.

The doormats I was referring to weren't so much the workers out there, more the rich Indians from various countries who lap up all Dubai has to offer without sparing a thought for the people that look just like them being pissed on.

So...we're agreed - rich desis are the problem. Finally I can look at my overdraft with pleasure!

However I also know of many

However I also know of many desis who have flocked to the middle east, fully aware of the shit they would face. Are they really so desperate? I honestly don’t know. I guess they would have to be, so I cannot judge them. But I hope it’s a significant amount of money that is sufficient for these people to live as second class citizens.

I think it's most interesting when desis from the States go to the Middle East thinking they'll get treated as equals and then get completely phased (I think this happens most with Muslim desis)
I have a Bangladeshi friend whose parents moved to Saudi for a year for a work project and they were appalled with the way they were treated and came running back to the States (but do they really get treated much better here?)

So…we’re agreed - rich desis are the problem.

rich desis? heehehe, Robin, I don't discriminate in this respect, rich ANYBODY is a problem (arabs, white folks, its all inclusive...)

errr sorry for getting your

errr sorry for getting your name wrong there RoHin!

However I also know of many

However I also know of many desis who have flocked to the middle east, fully aware of the shit they would face. Are they really so desperate? I honestly don’t know. I guess they would have to be, so I cannot judge them.

Many are desperate. And some are forced into it via human trafficking.

Historically, there has always been a migration exchange between the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent-- well before the 7th century, Arab trading communities had settled in Gujurat, as well as in Cochin, for example.

However, the most decisive wave of migration from the Indian subcontinent-- particularly from Kerala-- was in the 70's due to the oil boom in the Gulf states. And I have read stories and narratives of how some of these people had scrouged and saved up paisa for a long time just to make it out there. I am unsure as to whether the Desis that got to the U.A.E. in the 70's are now the wealthier Desis. What is interesting is that in Biju Mathews' book Taxi , he traces how the Desi taxi drivers in NYC actually migrated from the U.A.E, having previously migrated to the U.A.E. from the Desh. The US is another stop on the long path of migration. What I do know is that the Desi migrant laborers are desperate, and they go from one desperate situation (in the Desh) to another.

The doormats I was referring to weren’t so much the workers out there, more the rich Indians from various countries who lap up all Dubai has to offer without sparing a thought for the people that look just like them being pissed on.

This isn't applicable to only Desis in Dubai. The rich Indian Americans here tend to view the Desi taxi drivers in NYC much the same way-- with disdain and embarressment because they "don't speak English correctly", they aren't "educated", and they are "ruining it for the rest of us" (I've derived these quotes from some New York Times article published some years back).

But I hope it’s a significant

But I hope it’s a significant amount of money that is sufficient for these people to live as second class citizens.

For the South Asian migrant laborers, the amount of money isn't sufficient enough to live even as 3rd, 4th, etc class situations. Judging from what I have read (and I haven't had any personal experiences), it's almost as if they are classless, that is how bad their situation is.

And BTW, they are not even "citizens". Citizenship is extended to only 'native" Emiratis, which, regardless of whether you were born and raised there:

the population of the U.A.E is 4.3 million. Only 15-20 % are actual citizens of the U.A.E.

I'm not sure about this, but I think recently there might have been some kind of move to extend and grant citizenship to non native Emiratis.

Great, great post

Great, great post DesiItaliana! I didn't really know much about Dubai but reading about the exploited underclass is really sad.

That's what made Time Magazine's 'INDIA INC' feature so disappointing...the same glorification of the widening gap between rich and poor. I guess shoving more people under that poverty line is what we get when we free up a 'creaking socialist economy' to the 'entrepreneurial boom' that gets people to work in call centres for less than the US minimum wage (woop woop!) and get on covers of big phoren mags too.

If only people could stop for a second and think about what 'progress' and 'development' really mean...

Great post, I learned a lot,

Great post, I learned a lot, thanks :)
A friend's cousin works in Kuwait and he's the only desi I know who lives in the middle east. He seems pretty happy but then again, he is very well educated and (I'm assuming from his job) well paid. I guess its similar to the treatment handed out to immigrants in the states.
The illegal and usually poor immigrants are the ones who face most of the actual economic and physical violence. The richer immigrants are usually only the targets of Fox news when there is an economic downturn. They're also much more capable of fighting back and when it comes down to it, how many doctors and tech workers do we see being fired because Americans need their jobs? If they are fired, it's because of the same reasons any if their peers would get fired for.

And on another tangent, I was reading a blog by an Indian guy living in Dubai (??) and every other post had him spewing his dislike for the poorer Indians. Apparently he felt that he would be looked down upon because Indians chose to act so "Indian." Hopefully he's an exception rather than the rule as far as how Indians treat each other in the Middle East.

I think it’s most interesting

I think it’s most interesting when desis from the States go to the Middle East thinking they’ll get treated as equals and then get completely phased (I think this happens most with Muslim desis)

Here's an interesting related snippet from Thomas Blom Hansen's The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India:

Quite a few of the Indian Muslims I met who had working experience in the Gulf confided to me, strictly off the record, that they had lost their faith in Muslim solidarity after having been bullied by their Arab employers, who hold the often dark-skinned Indian Muslims in very low esteem

“We don’t like these brown

“We don’t like these brown people…”...

An economically booming city; lots of immigrants workers who do the crap jobs and get paid a pittance; the residents don’t really want to hang around them and start re-locating to the suburbs. Sound familiar? We’ve been here before of cours...

[...] It seems as if there is

[...] It seems as if there is no end to the abuse and exploitation of the South Asian migrants who are flung across the globe. Similar to the situation in Dubai, the South Asian labor force undergoes exploitation in Bahrain as well. [...]

Indians....please go

Indians....please go somewhere else..stop flocking in DUBAI, You people spoilt the job market, by letting the companies here exploit you, pay you guys low salary, live in poor condition at low class areas and when those who are not use to this kind of living condition (come from another country not third world...)and demanded a better package, you Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankan's ..step in and allow yourself to be treated like a slave, bribe them like what you guys commonly practice in your third world country and spoil the standard living of others!!!!!!! Areas at NAIF and KARAMA are considered heaven for you guys compared to the standard of living in INDIA, PAK, Sri LANKA.!!!! Your poor status create your attitude!!!! Don't bring your culture here, like bribe! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

Hey DUBAI: When will you wake

Hey DUBAI: When will you wake up, get off your diet of government propaganda, and your generally spoon-fed khaleej life and realize that a)the UAE aint no "first-world country" either b) that back when oil was discovered, your squabbling tribal rulers were colonial lackeys, that the generally trading, merchant bent to your society meant that labour had to be brought in from other countries. Nobody 'flocked' to the no-man's land of dubai of that time. Your rulers, the British and every other Gulf royal family intentionally discouraged migrant labour from Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt and the Levant because they feared the influence of "different" political ideologies be it Nasserist, Baathist or generally Pan-arabist. South Asians workers were recruited and encouraged to come because they were seen as culturally distinct enough to not assimilate themselves, their lives into Gulf societies. We want your labour, not your lives - standard story. While "temporary" labour became permanent, your illegitmate governments then bought your consent to rule with regular checks from surplus "oil profits", government housing, land and a draconian sponsporship system that gave random locals an alarming range of power over the lives of any non-local. You thus forgot about the fact that you have no such thing as a participatory society or a realistic, self-sufficient economy nor did your government intend to take you that point since they were and are too busy thinking about how to create a bigger pie for themselves.

So while y'all got wealthy and middle-class in the most illusory way sweetly sedated by government promises and a welfare state, a slave army of manual labourers, clerks, accounts, engineers, grocery/cold-store owners, cooks, servers, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, secretaries, gardeners, drivers, servants and a countless other invisible people built and ran your economies. If you understood anything about the historical development of a global economy and human life in general, you would understand that migration routes are determined both by geography and historical political legacies, that people will go wherever they can to survive, and that people are likely to migrate to the nearest 'land of opportunity' to do this.

Also, nobody "allows" themselves to get exploited. You have very little choice when you're told by some manpower agent (whose existence is sanctioned by govts on either side) in Sri Lanka that if you pay him --- amount, he will arrange to get you papers and a decent job in the Gulf only to find out when you get there that - he claims you never paid him, you were actually brought to Dubai to be a maid for a pittance, your passport is confiscated, you are denied a basic labour contract and are instead at the whim of your sponsor. You're then treated like shit by your employer, often not paid for months, beaten and abused now that you occupy a place in a now naturalized racial hierarchy of labour where people can get away with ugly power trips since you are a "temporary" worker unworthy of basic civil, social, political rights or the support of a legal system. When your abusive sponsor/employer will not give you your passport back or pay for your ticket to go home under the "law" he is supposed to follow, you run away out of sheer misery because your lack of status as a real human being means you need his permission to change jobs. When you have now overstayed your visa because you don't have the money to get yourself back to Sri Lanka, you are criminalized as a "run away", humiliated and thrown into jail, demonized as the irresponsible maid of a victimized sponsor before being finally deported with nothing.

Now if you're a male worker, you live in areas like Karama because you're paid nothing to perform inhuman hours of work so that the people at the top, who are all locals can take home fatter paychecks and give back to their pointless consumer-based economy that would collapse if people stopped shopping for bling at the grotesque malls that overwhelm Dubai. You live in squalor because your company is too busy spending 20 times the amount on the rent of its American vice president's villa that comes with a pool, a gym and an obscene salary (that the counterpart local exec isn't getting either) because for this migrant, living in the gulf is a "hardship" and his superior labour and insight must be allowed to flourish in the most comfortable conditions. So yes, Karama then becomes an underworld economy of cheap shops filled with goods from china and india that the other half of dubai can actually afford, and poverty generates squalor, governments also don't care to divert their street cleaners from Shaikh Zayed road since who wants to see Karama anyway.

So Dubai, since you don't care to be cognizant of any of this, you fail to realize that this entirely unrealistic method of functioning as a society is falling apart. You are obviously as affected by this system as the poor expat. There are people at the top, both expat and local who benefit from such a ridigly stratified state. Instead of buying into this myth of expats vs. locals, people should realize that self-serving monarchies and their accompanying allied elites have got to go and policies on citizenship, labour and migration need to be radically overhauled and based on fair, level ground.

Come to think of it, I

Come to think of it, I suspect that the wage and labor situation of Desi taxi drivers in NYC and probably elsewhere in the US is not too far from the position of Desis in Dubai.

Can she be serious?

Why do you keep asking

Why do you keep asking rhetorical questions like this? You're allowed to state your opinion in statements.

Lets just hope our economy

Lets just hope our economy develops the way it is growing for another 10 years and hopefully Indians won't require these cheap jobs in the gulf or will be supplanted by bangladshis and pakistanis prepared to work for a lot less.

As for these arabs most of them are poor only the 10% or so in the GCC are living it up.They are a peculiar combination of pride and stupidity the entire middle east is like that on their own they can't even design a bicycle.

Lets just hope our economy

Lets just hope our economy develops the way it is growing for another 10 years and hopefully Indians won’t require these cheap jobs in the gulf or will be supplanted by bangladshis and pakistanis prepared to work for a lot less.

1. I see no reason to root for Indians over Pakistanis and Bangladeshis even though my family is from India. In fact, I'd rather do the opposite just because I'm cross at the suggestion.
2. Not to minimize what progress has been made in certain sectors, but it's pretty unconvincing that the growth that's happening now is a full scale industrialization process - there's I think 4% or so TFP growth over the last 25 years or so, as opposed to around 10% or maybe more in South Korea in the 1960s. You have to look at productivity growth if you want to understand what type of economic growth is happening. You also have to look at diversification, linkages, distribution, and other factors.
3. In part because of this and because of the (imo overly self-chosen) exposure to global politics and economcis, this is not going to continue (I think the GDP growth rate has already dropped actually - to around 8%). If India had gone more the China way and less the IMF-proposed way (it was in between, much closer to the China way than the Western press reports), within the constraints it was operating in, it would have had more freedom to make mistakes and develop appropriate policies for India and insulate itself more from things like the food crisis, the fuel crisis, massive political instability, upcoming even more intense social violence, and the financial crisis. Not entirely mind you - but more so.

People of Dubai are very bad

People of Dubai are very bad and Inshallah Dubai bad people will finished in a few year. Aameen

Email ID: faisalh009@yahoo.com

People of Dubai are very bad

People of Dubai are very bad and Inshallah Dubai bad people will finished in a few year. Aameen

Email ID: faisalh009@yahoo.com

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