U.S. News

New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus could still be exploiting migrant laborers, report says

Shafi Musaddique
Key Points
  • Report by student advocacy group criticizes NYU for failing to eliminate risk of migrant laborers working in harsh conditions in Abu Dhabi.
  • Investigation in 2014 claimed migrant workers were forced to pay recruitment fees to secure a job and lived in overcrowded spaces.
  • NYU says the report is 'neither right nor fair'.
Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis via Getty Image

New York University has done little to eliminate the risk of migrant laborers being exploited at its Abu Dhabi campus and has failed to reimburse unpaid workers, according to a report.

The school violated Emirati and U.S. laws by using forced labor to build the $1 billion campus, the report titled "Forced Labour at NYU Abu Dhabi" and by the university's student advocacy group Coalition for Fair Labor said.

It alleged that NYU had fallen back on its promise to repay workers in 2015 after a New York Times investigation in 2014 claimed that migrant workers were forced to pay recruitment fees to secure a job and lived in overcrowded spaces.

Migrant workers were also allegedly forced to work beyond their contracted hours and had their passports taken off them by employers.

This week's report accused the university of double standards and of going back on its commitment to transparency.

"We call on the university to undertake steps that would embody a renewed commitment to ensure that workers on all its campus sites can be ensured a dignified working life in NYU's global world," the report said.

"We believe the Coalition for Fair Labor's assessment is neither right nor fair," Kate Chandler, a NYU Abu Dhabi spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We disagree with the report's findings, which are not based on primary evidence."

NYU released its own report this week on labor compliance at the Abu Dhabi campus.

The university's report said that job satisfaction had improved for workers since 2015, and that the institution has created a 24/7 hotline to report workplace concerns. It said it has reimbursed 50 workers for recruitment fees over the past two years.