For the first time, Dubai Expo 2020 says 5 workers died on the spot
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Expo 2020 Dubai acknowledged on Saturday that five workers were killed on site during the construction of the massive world fair, revealing for the first time global statistics on worker deaths .
Expo previously said that its 200,000 workers who built the site worked some 240 million hours in its construction. It had previously provided no aggregate statistics on worker deaths, injuries or coronavirus infections despite repeated requests from The Associated Press and other reporters.
The admission comes after the European Parliament last month urged countries not to participate in the Expo, citing the UAE’s “inhumane practices against foreign workers” which it said worsened during the pandemic. Ahead of the Expo, companies and construction firms “force workers to sign untranslated documents, confiscate their passports, expose them to extreme working hours in dangerous weather conditions and provide them with unsanitary housing.” , indicates the resolution.
At a press conference a day after the event opened, Expo spokesperson Sconaid McGeachin said information on the deaths was previously available but did not elaborate. The PA had repeatedly requested information and received no response from the Expo.
She also said authorities would provide more information on the victims at a later, unspecified date.
McGeachin also acknowledged that authorities were aware of cases involving contractors “withholding passports” and engaging in suspicious “recruiting practices” and workplace safety violations at the site.
“We have taken steps to make sure these have been resolved and have been very involved in cases about it,” she said, without further details.
The United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich sheikh who relies on low-paid migrant labor from Africa, Asia and Arab countries to keep its economy running, faces criticism of long standing on the part of human rights groups for mistreating these workers. But officials struggled to present a positive image of Expo, the premier world fair in the Middle East that seeks to show Dubai pride and attract millions of foreign visitors.
Workers in the UAE are not allowed to organize and have little protection, often working long hours for minimal pay and living in unsanitary conditions.
The scorching heat of early autumn in Dubai proved dangerous even for those who visited the site on its opening day on Friday, with tourists passing out in humid weather at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).