Amidst many tales of ill treatment of migrant workers in the Middle East at Coronavirus times, the United Arab Emirates has ensured it can show its solidarity of all those that work in its land.
Confirming its commitment in a letter to Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health, safety and welfare of all people around the world and necessitates a comprehensive global response addressing health, labor, the economy, and human rights.”
Showing his sense of responsibility to protecting the rights of migrant workers, he has said that UAE continues to uphold a commitment to protect the rights of all workers in the country and ensuring their health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheikh Abdullah has sent many examples of showing international solidarity in the past when he went out of his way to speak to Syria and Singapore about ways UAE could contribute in mitigating a fight against the virus.
The UAE Central Bank has implemented a US$27 billion targeted economic support scheme to alleviate liquidity issues faced by businesses and ensure that migrant workers could be paid and taken care of, unless they are repatriated by their respective nations.
Furthermore, the UAE Foreign Minister described a series of measures to promote worker safety, noting that the UAE is partnering with private sector employers to provide protective equipment, ensure social distancing and encourage remote work, sterilize work facilities, and issue mandatory certification prior to restarting economic activity.
The UAE Government has also outlined requirements for private sector workplaces, transport, and accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic and is conducting inspections to ensure compliance.
By providing a bilingual information centre especially for COVID-19, the government has ensured migrant workers get the required information and can seek help if need be. A proactive educational outreach program is ongoing to provide information to workers on COVID-19 safety and healthcare options.
Sheikh Abdullah affirmed that the UAE Government is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals principle of “leave no one behind,” noting the country’s support for assistance programs among vulnerable communities. H.H. referenced the 10 Million Meals campaign; the provision of support for medical, food, education and other basic needs; and the provision of support to the families of those who succumb to COVID-19, regardless of nationality and for the
duration of the pandemic.
Other measures include the automatic renewal of work permits, free COVID-19 testing and treatment for those who require it, and voluntary repatriation to workers’ home countries with no impact on employment.
To go one step further, UAE is not shying away from teaching itself about best practices as its administration is undertaking study from UN agencies, civil society, businesses, and local administrations that has helped it form an Ad Hoc Working Group to strengthen partnerships in advance of the Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit in 2021.