DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Dubai’s Expo 2020 acknowledged on Saturday that five workers died at the site during the construction of the massive world’s fair, revealing for the first time overall statistics of worker deaths.
Expo previously said that its 200,000 workers who built the site worked around 240 million hours on its construction. It had not previously provided any general statistics on worker deaths., injuries or coronavirus infections despite repeated requests from The Associated Press and other journalists.
The admission comes after the European Parliament last month urged nations not to participate in the Expo, citing the UAE’s “inhumane practices against foreign workers” that it said worsened during the pandemic. Before the Expo, companies and construction companies are “coercing workers to sign untranslated documents, confiscating their passports, exposing them to extreme working hours in unsafe weather conditions and providing them with unsanitary housing,” the resolution says.
At a press conference the day after the event opened, Expo spokesman Sconaid McGeachin claimed that information on the deaths was previously available, but did not elaborate. The AP had previously requested the information repeatedly and received no response from the Expo.
He also said authorities would offer more information about the victims at an unspecified later time.
McGeachin also acknowledged that authorities were aware of cases of contractors “withholding passports” and engaging in suspicious “recruitment practices” and workplace security breaches at the site.
“We have taken steps to ensure that a lot of cases have been addressed and intervened in this regard,” he said, without elaborating.
The United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich sheik who relies on poorly paid migrant labor from Africa, Asia and Arab countries to keep its economy going, faces long-standing criticism from human rights groups for treating such poorly. workers. But officials have struggled to present a positive image for Expo, the first world fair in the Middle East that seeks to show Dubai’s pride and attract millions of foreign visitors.
Workers in the UAE are unable to unionize and have few protections, often working long hours for little pay and living in poor conditions.
The scorching heat of early autumn in Dubai proved dangerous even for those who visited the site on its opening day on Friday., with some tourists passing out in the humid 40-degree-Celsius (104-degree-Fahrenheit) weather.