x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Workers made to live in boxes

More than 200 labourers were found living in cardboard boxes in the basement of a construction site they were working on.

More than 200 labourers have been found living in filthy cardboard boxes after their employers allegedly housed them in the basement of a construction site where they were working. Dubai police said the workers' plight was discovered after they refused to work last weekend in protest at their living conditions. Following an investigation, Dubai police have filed a case against the general manager of the contracting company, which officers declined to name.

"He was questioned and accused of putting other people's lives at risk," said Maj Gen Khamis Mattar al Mazeina, the acting chief of Dubai police. The labourers were staying in what police described as inadequate and unlawful housing for more than three months. A police source close to the investigation said workers were living in cardboard boxes and squalid conditions that violated health and safety regulations.

"There were temporary bathrooms and kitchens and electricity wires and cables extensions were placed randomly, causing serious danger," he said. "There were many gas cylinders and flammable construction materials around. It was a disaster waiting to happen." The men had been living on the lower floor of a building still under construction in an area that would become parking space. Police said a committee formed by police, municipality and workers rights groups handled cases of poor living conditions.

Maj Gen Mazeina said police were committed to protecting human rights and regularly inspected labour camps and construction sites. Police would not hesitate to take legal action against companies that broke the law, he said. The case is now with the public prosecution office. @Email:rabubaker@thenational.ae