Concerns over migrant exploitation ahead of trade expo in Dubai

New Zealand's Pavilion is expected to be finished in May.
New Zealand's Pavilion is expected to be finished in May. Photo credit: File.

Human Rights Watch says more should be done to ensure workers building the New Zealand Pavilion for the Dubai 2020 Trade Expo aren't being exploited.

The workers helping build the $53 million pavilion for next year's Dubai Trade Expo are almost entirely migrants from developing countries, as is common in the United Arab Emirates.

Migrant exploitation in the United Arab Emirates, especially in the construction industry, has been well documented, but little has been done to combat it.

Earning on average about $9000 a year, it's been well documented, including by the United Nations, that migrants are mistreated, even exploited in the UAE.

But Commissioner General of the 2020 expo, Clayton Kimpton, says the way they care for people is a central part of sustainability.

"All the documentation that we require and that expo require cover off all those welfare issues, we're really pleased with the level of audit that's being undertaken by them," said Kimpton.

Hiba Zayadin from Human Rights Watch said some of the abuses the workers face include passport confiscations by their employers, delayed wages, excessive working hours and working in the heat, especially for construction workers, which can be quite dangerous, cramped and unsanitary housing.

But there's no evidence the migrant workers building New Zealand Pavillion are being exploited or mistreated.

Expo2020Dubai, which is part of the UAE-Government, says it's enforcing "world-class" standards and it's set up a dedicated worker welfare team to audit construction companies.

 Newshub has asked for copies of those audit reports but they're yet to be provided.

Human Rights Watch says the reports can't be trusted as they come from the UAE Government.

"There needs to be independent monitors monitoring the compliance of all the contractors working on the expo," said Zayadin.

"But that's difficult as many organisations including Human Rights Watch, aren't allowed into the U-A-E, that alone speaks volumes," Zayadin told Newshub.

New Zealand's Pavilion is expected to be finished in May.