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.