UAE welcomes UN findings on human rights as ‘constructive’


Githu Muigai, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said the government’s steps to further improve the working and living conditions of construction and domestic workers were positive.

Muigai, speaking to the press at a conference on Thursday after a four-day tour of the various parts of the country, suggested that more could be done. He said the government had been cooperative and open throughout his visit.

“I was told by virtually all my interlocutors that the situation had much improved in recent years. The government has taken numerous and commendable initiatives to address the construction and domestic workers,” he said.

“These include the setting up of accessible channels to submit a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, financial assistance to file a lawsuit in the court, setting up of a banking system allowing for on-time payment of wages, the conclusion of memorandum of understanding with countries of origin, as well as enhancement of housing conditions,” the official added.

Reacting to the assessment, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash, in a statement to national news agency Wam, said: “The government welcomes the UN rapporteur’s appraisal and views it as a step forward in the process of constructive dialogue towards addressing the challenges that the country faces.”

The visit of the UN rapporteur, the first of its kind to the UAE, came at the invitation of the government during the country’s Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.

Muigai, a Kenyan human rights lawyer, travelled to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah from October 4 to October 8 to meet officials from various departments and ministries, including interior, justice, labour and foreign affairs, Federal National Council Affairs and the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

“The findings are a recognition of the UAE’s efforts to promote and develop human rights along international standards,” Dr Gargash said.

Muigai, however, also pointed out that construction and domestic workers still face a number of difficulties, such as the contracted debts with labour recruitment agencies in the countries of origin, as well as physical assaults and verbal abuse against domestic workers.

He also said the efforts made by the UAE regarding the issue of human trafficking and to rehabilitate women who have been trafficked into this country were helping address the challenges.

“The recent review of the UAE by the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination and by the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights Council demonstrates that the authorities are willing to find ways and means of addressing the human rights challenges faced by the people living here and to ensure compliance with international human rights standards,” he said.

He described the UAE as a unique country where non-nationals constitute the vast majority of the population and where the nationals represent a minority in their own country. The UN Special Rapporteur said it was important to open the public education system to foreigners.

Promising continued cooperation, Dr Gargash said: “The government looks forward to further engagement with the Human Rights Council in the pursuit of fulfilling the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

While a more detailed analysis of the UN mission’s findings is expected to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2010, the UN rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography is expected to visit the country next week.


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