Abu Dhabi: The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday issued a report highlighting various steps and laws it has introduced to protect expatriate labourers.

According to the report, the UAE has made enormous progress in the protection it provides to workers. In recent years, the UAE government has reformed its laws substantially to address concerns that expatriate workers may be exposed to poor practices and/or mistreatment, including the withholding of travel documents, human trafficking, or non-payment of wages.

Expatriate labour comprises a significant and valued part of the UAE’s workforce. They are also an important source of income for their home countries. According to World Bank figures, in 2012 they remitted more than $20 billion (Dh73.46 billion) back to their home countries — the largest amounts going to India, Pakistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — making the UAE the sixth biggest source of remittances in the world.

“For the UAE, respect for labour rights is a moral, cultural and economic imperative. Many of the challenges relating to the implementation of labour rights in the UAE are concentrated around blue-collar workers in the construction field. The UAE considers it a priority to work on an ongoing basis to improve their conditions,” stated the report.

Recent measures have ranged from outlawing employer confiscation of workers’ passports to allowing workers to transfer sponsorship between employers and introducing wage protection measures.

The UAE has ratified nine major International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions related to the rights of workers.

The UAE has taken strong action to enforce the law on conditions of work. The UAE Cabinet issued resolution No 10 in 2012 and, prior to that, resolution No 1178 in 2010, imposing heavy fines on firms that do not ensure the basic rights of workers.

In 2013, the Ministry of Labour conducted 138,801 inspections, 11,807 visits to inspect the standards of accommodation and 80,571 visits to ensure workers were not working during the peak hours of summer heat. In total, 1,015 cases were transferred to the prosecutors. Substantial penalties have been imposed for violations relating to working conditions and workers’ rights.

The report also indicates that the UAE has implemented in 2009 the Wage Protection System to enforce the fair and timely payment of salaries. The report also points out laws introduced to ensure the health safety of workers, protecting them from unscrupulous recruiters, human trafficking, visa sponsorship and the introduction of a complaints mechanism.