Tourist visa scam puts migrant workers at even greater risk of exploitation
Employers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increasingly use tourist visas to hire migrant workers in a scheme that leaves migrants exposed to labor abuse, Indian police and activists report.
Sold by hotels and airlines, tourist visas are quicker and cheaper to obtain than work permits. As tourist visas don’t give migrants the right to work in the UAE, employers are not linked to the visa, effectively freeing them from all responsibility.
Migrants on visit visas are afraid to report exploitation on the job for fear of revealing their illegal status.
Indian national, Mohammad Pasha filed a police complaint last November against a job agent who arranged a supermarket job for him in Dubai on a visit visa.
When asked by police at Mumbai airport if he was going for work, Pasha lied and said he was sightseeing as the recruiter said he risked jail if the authorities discovered the truth.
Pasha said he worked 16 hour days without overtime and was paid 800 dirhams (£167) monthly, not the 1,000 promised - but his employer warned him to keep quiet.
A demand for cheap short-term workers ahead of big events such as Dubai’s Expo 2020 in October has further fueled the scam, a United Nations official said on condition of anonymity.
More than a third of the UAE’s registered 8 million migrant workers were Indian as of 2017, the latest U.N. data shows.
34% of the worker population work in the construction industry where conditions are particularly unsafe. Though worker fatality numbers in the UAE are not publicly disclosed, according to data from the Indian government, 5,185 Indian nationals died between 2012–2017 in the UAE.