Dubai Expo 2020 gives mixed figures on worker deaths

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Expo 2020 Dubai presented conflicting figures on Saturday on the number of workers killed on site during the construction of the World’s Fair, first five, then three later.

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In a subsequent statement, Expo apologized and called the initial figure a “mistake”. Authorities have for months refused to publicly provide figures on construction-related casualties in the run-up to the $ 7 billion fairground rising from the desert outside Dubai, designed to boost the reputation of the city ​​abroad and attract millions of visitors.

The inconsistent statements came during the event, and the UAE as a whole has long been criticized by human rights activists for the mistreatment of low-paid migrant workers from Africa, Asia and Africa. of the Middle East that make the country’s economy run. .

When asked to provide a worker fatality count at a press conference on Saturday morning, Expo spokesman Sconaid McGeachin said without hesitation that “we have had five fatalities now,” adding: “you know, it’s obviously a tragedy that anyone would die.”

But just after 5 p.m. on Saturday, the Expo released a statement that read: “Unfortunately, there have been three work-related deaths. [and] 72 serious injuries to date. Just after 7 p.m., the Expo issued another statement apologizing for the “inaccuracy.”

Expo said its 200,000 workers who built the vast fairground from scratch worked more than 240 million hours. In the past year, authorities had previously provided no aggregate statistics on worker deaths, injuries or coronavirus infections despite repeated requests from the AP and other journalists.

The admission comes after the European Parliament urged nations not to participate in the Expo, citing the UAE’s “inhumane practices against foreign workers” which it says have 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 last month’s resolution.

McGeachin also acknowledged that authorities were aware of cases involving contractors “withholding passports”, engaging in suspicious “recruiting practices” and violating workplace safety codes.

Gallery: Expo 2020, the Dubai World Expo

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“We have taken steps to make sure these have been resolved and have been very involved in business about it,” she said, without further details.

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. Most foreign workers, hoping to earn more than they would at home, come to the UAE and other oil-rich Arab states through recruitment agencies, as part of a system of sponsorship that links their residency status to their employment and gives their employers inordinate power.

Dubai’s scorching heat in early fall proved dangerous even for those visiting the site on its opening day on Friday, with some tourists passing out in humid weather at 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

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