Dubai faces gradual exodus of migrant workers

Dubai faces gradual exodus of migrant workers

UAE

Construction worker Bilal is in a happy mood as he takes his lunch break sitting next to an artificial lake near Dubai's showpiece Mall of the Emirates.
But he admits anxiety about the end of his contract in one year's time, when the 24-year-old may have to return to Bangladesh.

Before last year's credit crunch, Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates were estimated at the end of 2007 to have a population of 6.4 million people of whom 5.5 million were foreigners.

More than three million were registered with the ministry of labour as workers, when Dubai was still racing to build enormous shopping centres and business districts.
But now the picture is very different. Even before state-owned Dubai World said last week that it wants to halt payments on its huge debts for at least six months, property prices were down by half and office rents by as much as two-thirds.

People from Asia, who form the majority of the construction workforce, may find their livelihoods at stake following the mothballing of hundreds of new building projects worth tens of billions of dollars.

Ferraris, Aston Martins and Maseratis are parked less than 100 metres (yards) away from where Bilal sits by the lake on Thursday, his blue safety helmet alongside him.
There is no indication anywhere nearby of the financial crisis swirling across the city.
"No, I'm not worried" about losing my job, he says. "I have worked here for two years, our company's agreement is for three years."

But he concedes that not knowing where he will work when his contract expires is a source of concern.For Indian site engineer Thomas, unemployment is a already a reality.
He walked out of Thiruvananthapuram International airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Thursday, after 10 years in the Emirati city, with just two items of hand luggage and a bundle of clothes.

His contract had been terminated by his Dubai-based construction company after the project was hit by the economic crisis.

"I was working as a site engineer in Dubai. I've no other choice than return to Kerala," 50-year-old Thomas told AFP.

"My flight was full of people returning. Sooner or later almost 80 per cent of the workers will have to leave Dubai.

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