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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors

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Maps Of Dubai

Official Maps of Dubai:

Access full map here.

Tourist Map of Dubai:

The official maps of Dubai are full of expensive stores, Metro stations, luxurious hotels, expensive apartment buildings, and quality schools. As Dubai continues to produce extravagant sky scrapers such as the Burj Al Arab, or the Burj Khalifa the exploitation of immigrant workers from all over Asia continues to rise. Official maps of Dubai fail to portray the reality the workers. The maps do not show the living conditions that the workers live under, there are no pictures of the housing, and no representation of ethnic enclaves in the area. The official maps of Dubai take power away from the workers, and in a sense exploit them by not showcasing the realities that they face. How ironic is it that a millionaire can invest $50 million in a home in Palm Island, but cannot invest money to improve the living conditions of immigrant workers. Dubai is a place where two extremes meet. These are extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Wealth in Dubai is clearly highlighted in official maps through images such as that Dubai international airport, Palm Island, the Regent International School, or the University of Wollongong. Official maps of Dubai are directed towards tourist and foreign investors.

Critical Map of Dubai: Featuring Sonapur 

There are over seventy labor camps in Dubai. One of the most notorious labor camps in Dubai is called Sonapur which literally means "City of Gold" in Hindi. However, Sonapur is far from being a "City of Gold." A single search of Sonapur on a map engine will yield no results. The name that Dubai gives to Sonapur is Muhaisnah. Muhaisnah is separated into four sub-communities, of these four communities two, three, and four make up Sonapur. Sonapour is located relatively close to the "world's most luxurious hotel" the Burj Al Arab, and from the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa. This map contains the location of Sonapur along with images from the camp. Also, the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa are shown in the map to demonstrate the proximity of these luxurious buildings to Sonapur. This map was created in hopes that people will look past the facade of luxury and question why workers are treated as slaves. 

Sonapur is located about half an hour away from downtown Dubai. Here one will find piles of garbage along the dirt roads, and puddles of raw sewage leaking from pipes. The camp houses between 150,000 to 300,000 workers. Most of the workers who live in Sonapur are Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, and African men. The camp has many buildings composed of one storey structures. These structures have rooms that measure 12 by 12 feet with small windows. Food is cooked on gas stoves attached to propane cylinders. According to an article by Middle East Online "Sonapur camp-Dubai's dark side worker Niaz Hussein shared a room with 14 others, most of them men slept on the floor. This was due to the fact that the room only had two bunk beds. Those that live in the camp work 14 hour days and earn $100 a month. The workers are taken by bus to work six days a week. Suicide is common in the camp. In 2005 alone the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths that were linked to heat exhaustion, overwork, and suicide. This figure is not completely accurate as many of the deaths that take place in the camps are covered up by authorities, thus it is nearly impossible to accurately track the deaths of the workers. 

The workers that live in Sonapur have helped build luxurious hotels and houses in Dubai. Yet, they live in deplorable conditions. According the article "Migrant workers in Dubai: They are sucking our blood" the workers who live in the camp do not want to speak out against the labor violations that they experience because they fear the companies they work for will take actions against them. Lawyer Mohammed al Mansouri who is a human rights activist was detained in July of 2012 along with twelve others after he spoke out against the injustices that workers experience in the UAE. Authorities said the thirteen people were arrested because they allegedly plotted crimes against the states security, opposed the UAE constitution and ruling system, and for having ties to foreign organizations and agendas. Cases like the one of Mohammed al Mansouri  serve to reinforce the idea that workers should not speak out against the labor exploitation that they experience.

 Just like the workers who have played a huge role in the development of Dubai, Sonapur or the "City of Gold" is hidden from the public. Even though, it is found a short distance away from the luxury that Dubai. The workers in Dubai are surrounded by luxury, yet they are denied access to such luxury and instead exploited on a daily basis and forced to remain silent. 

By: Thania Lucero
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