DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Human Rights Watch says migrant workers building a prominent cultural complex that includes branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim museums in the United Arab Emirates continue to face exploitation despite government reforms.
The New York-based rights group’s report Tuesday acknowledged “positive steps” by Emirati authorities, including changes to a visa sponsorship system that links workers to their employers and the implementation of guidelines intended to improve working conditions.
The group says abuses it documented in two previous reports on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island project nonetheless continue, though it is not possible to determine how widespread they are because of restrictions from Emirati authorities.
Some employees at the Saadiyat Island site in Abu Dhabi, which will also be home to a campus of New York University, are withholding wages, confiscating workers’ passports, and housing them in substandard accommodation, HRW said.
Several hundred workers who went on strike at the site were arbitrarily deported, the New York-based rights group said.
Human Rights Watch urged the Louvre and Guggenheim museums Tuesday to pressure the United Arab Emirates to end worker abuse on the project hosting branches of the institutions.
“NYU, the Louvre, and the Guggenheim should surely understand by now that they can’t blindly accept the UAE authorities’ assurances that workers’ rights are being respected,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson.
“They need to exert their influence much more forcefully and demand much more in return for their presence on Saadiyat Island.”
The government-backed Tourism Development and Investment Company behind the project rejected the report’s “unfounded conclusions,” calling them “outdated and based on unknown methodologies.”