Dubai: Hari, plus Mike Davis

There’s much to be said for Johann Hari, whatever [uncertainties]( you may have about his reliability. He’s one of the few reliably left-liberal voices in the British media, and he’s an excellent writer. His long [piece on Dubai]( in last week’s Independent deservedly ruffled a lot of feathers. In it, he describes the life of the labourers imported to build Dubai’s skyscrapers, kept without chance of escape in what amounts to slavery:
>Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.
>Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means “City of Gold”. In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.
The reaction was immense, and consisted of that odd mix of “you’re making it up” and “that’s old news” which is generally a sure sign that you’ve hit a nerve.
But in the interests of not relying on Hari alone, here’s a somewhat similar [account of Dubai](, by [Planet of Slums]( author Mike Davis:
>Dubai, like its neighbours, flouts ILO labour regulations and refuses to adopt the international Migrant Workers Convention. Human Rights Watch in 2003 accused the Emirates of building prosperity on ‘forced labour’. Indeed, as the Independent recently emphasized, ‘the labour market closely resembles the old indentured labour system brought to Dubai by its former colonial master, the British.’ ‘Like their impoverished forefathers’, the London paper continued, ‘today’s Asian workers are forced to sign themselves into virtual slavery for years when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates. Their rights disappear at the airport where recruitment agents confiscate their passports and visas to control them.’
Back to Hari for the last word:
>Perhaps Dubai disturbed me so much, I am thinking, because here, the entire global supply chain is condensed. Many of my goods are made by semi-enslaved populations desperate for a chance 2,000 miles away; is the only difference that here, they are merely two miles away, and you sometimes get to glimpse their faces? Dubai is Market Fundamentalist Globalisation in One City.

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