Arrested before payday, deported without paperwork, and now stonewalled by their former employers, hundreds of African migrants booted out of Abu Dhabi are attempting to restart their lives without essential documentation and funds.
The UAE claimed detention and deportation of over 400 persons in early September for offences such as human trafficking, assault and extortion — a claim that both migrants and human rights organisations have dismissed as false.
In the UAE, mass deportations of migrant workers regularly result in “wage theft”, with workers returning home without weeks, if not months, of unpaid wages.
Daniel Ojo, a 31-year-old maintenance worker, said his former employer owed him two months’ salary by the time he was deported to Nigeria.
“They owe me around AED 4,500 (N502,544). I chatted to my boss, then he stopped responding to my messages,” Ojo said. “He’s ready to not pay me because I’m not there anymore.”
Workers must be paid regardless of whether they were deported or had a criminal record, according to Saeed Alhebsi, director of the UAE’s foreign affairs ministry’s human rights department.
“Termination of residency rights would not preclude employees from pursuing complaints against employers for the non-payment of wages through legal channels. Complaints must, however, be filed within one year,” Alhebsi said in written comments.
The UAE has a population of almost 10 million, with over 80 per cent of them being expatriates who send money home.