Coherent Identifier About this item: 20.500.12592/wfbdx4

EXPOsed: Discrimination and forced labour practices on Expo 2020 Dubai



The city of Dubai in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) styles itself as an international hub for tourism, business, and culture. At the heart of this image is Expo 2020 Dubai, one of the largest megaprojects in the region and the first world expo held in the Middle East. Expo 2020 Dubai, delayed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, features 192 national pavilions. It is expected to attract 25 million visitors during the its six months of operation between October 1st, 2021 and March 31st, 2022, and potentially millions more after the Expo ends and the site is converted into District 2020 to attract business, high-tech innovation, and a residential population to the area.[0.4] Expo 2020 Dubai could not have taken place without migrant workers who make up more than 90% of private sector employees in the UAE.[0.5] These women and men were integral to building the infrastructure for the event, with more than 40,000 workers employed in the construction process alone.[0.6] Similarly, the delivery of the Expo requires thousands of additional migrant workers to perform a range of services, including in facilities management, security, hospitality and cleaning. Equidem research between September and December 2021 reveals that migrant workers engaged on projects at Expo 2020 Dubai across a range of sectors – from hospitality and retail to construction and security – are being subjected to forced labour practices. These practices violate UAE law yet, as far as Equidem is aware, none have been investigated by the authorities, nor has any individual or business been brought to account. Workers also spoke of being subjected to racial discrimination and bullying, and a reluctance to make formal complaints about their treatment out of fear of reprisals from employers or the authorities. This is despite Expo organisers establishing labour complaint grievance mechanisms as part of wide-ranging worker welfare standards that are meant to apply to all individuals working at the event and which establish a higher threshold of protection than under the UAE’s labour laws.



migrant workers dubai