Rights group says workers still abused at Abu Dhabi Louvre project

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2015 10:22 AM

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused an Abu Dhabi company building local branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums of mistreating its migrant workers, despite some improvements five years after the group first raised concerns.

The state-owned company denied all the allegations.

The New York-based rights watchdog said the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) confiscated workers' passports, withheld wages and benefits, provided poor housing and did nothing to reimburse employees who had been charged a fee in their home countries to secure the work, and that little progress had been made in these fields since its work began.

In the most serious allegation, HRW said hundreds of workers were deported for going on strike.

"TDIC rejects the report's unfounded conclusions, which are outdated and based on unknown methodologies, even as TDIC has been transparent in its efforts," the company said in a statement.

It said it had endeavored to comply with UAE labor law at its building sites on Saadiyat Island which also includes a local branch of New York University.

Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW conceded there had been some improvements for workers, who mostly come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, but abuses were still happening, including a ban on protesting.

"NYU, the Louvre and the Guggenheim need to make clear that new laws and codes of conduct are only as good as their enforcement," she said.

(Reporting By Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Noah Browning and Robin Pomeroy)