Report: NYU's Abu Dhabi Employees Pay to Work, Suffer Gross Human Rights Abuses

Workers at New York University’s new Abu Dhabi campus, who are employees contracted by NYU, have faced brutally inhumane working and living conditions in the Islamic emirate, reported The New York Times on Sunday.

The New York Times got together with “dozens” of workers building the site, seeking to understand the working conditions on campus in the oil-rich Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Some were harassed, even beaten and jailed. The Times report stated: 

They pounded on doors, breaking some down, and hauled dozens of men to prison. Mr. Sirkar was taken to a Dubai police station, where officers interrogated him. After a while, new officers arrived. That’s when things got rough.

The report continued:

“They beat me up,” he said through an Urdu interpreter, “asking me to confess I was involved in starting the strike.” Others were slapped, kicked, or beaten with shoes, a special indignity in Arab culture. After nine days in jail, Mr. Sirkar was deported, as were hundreds of other workers.

If the physical abuse wasn’t enough, the monetary struggles of the workers were made quite clear. Nearly all of the workers had to pay a "recruitment" fee just to secure their positions. This fee amounted to roughly one year's full salary. NYU claimed it would reimburse the fee, but the University has reportedly not held up its end of the bargain.

Most workers had to clock in for around eleven to twelve hours a day, working six or seven days per week. Many worked overtime on top of the aforementioned hours just to qualify for their originally promised base level salary. NYU had previously stated that the workers would put in no more than 48 hours per week on the job.

The grounds employees’ passports were stripped from them, never to be returned.

Some lived in apartments with as many as 15 people per room. NYU’s rule was to set a maximum capacity of four per room.

When NYU became aware of the report, its chief spokesman said he was “working with our partners to have it investigated.”

Aware of the horrible working conditions for laborers in Abu Dhabi, NYU released a “statement of honor values” in 2009, describing how the University would ensure the highest of standards to protect its contracted employees.

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report on Abu Dhabi, the Emirate has engineered a “system that facilitates the forced labor of migrant workers.”


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