(AP): Dubai’s Expo 2020 on Saturday admitted that five workers were died on site during construction of the massive world’s fair, revealing for the first time overall statistics for worker fatalities.
According to details, Dubai Expo previously said that its 200,000 labourers who built the site worked some 240 million hours in its construction. However, it not provided overall statistics previously on worker fatalities, injuries or coronavirus infections despite repeated requests.
The admission comes after the European Parliament last month urged nations not to take part in Expo, citing the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) “inhumane practices against foreign workers” that it said worsened during the pandemic.
Ahead of Expo, businesses and construction companies are “coercing workers into signing untranslated documents, confiscating their passports, exposing them to extreme working hours in unsafe weather conditions and providing them with unsanitary housing,” the resolution said.
At a press conference a day after the event’s opening, Expo spokesperson Sconaid McGeachin claimed the information about fatalities was previously available but did not elaborate.
McGeachin also acknowledged that authorities were aware of cases involving contractors “withholding passports” and engaging in suspect “recruitment practices” and workplace safety violations on site. “We have taken steps to ensure those have been addressed and very much intervened in cases on that,” she said, without elaborating.
The UAE faces long-standing criticism from human rights groups for treating those workers poorly. However, officials have battled to present a positive image for Expo that seeks to show off Dubai’s pride and draw millions of foreign visitors.
Laborers in the UAE are barred from unionisation and have few protections, often working long hours for little pay and living in substandard conditions.