British Museum Caught Up in Human Rights Row; MIGRANTS AT RISK LONDON INSTITUTION URGED TO PROTECT WORKERS ON GULF PROJECT

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Byline: Karen Attwood

THE British Museum was today urged to "take a stand" over the rights of migrant workers in the oil-rich desert sheikdom of Abu Dhabi.

The institution has struck a multi-million pound deal to help launch a national museum in the Gulf state, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. But human rights groups are concerned about the move amid growing evidence that labourers building the man-made island, which will also include branches of the Guggenheim and the Louvre, are being mistreated.

Human Rights Watch has been in talks with the museum to ask it to protect conditions for migrant workers by refusing to work with agencies which charge fees for finding work, confiscate passports or pay unfair wages. Spokesman Samer Muscati said: "We urged them to take human rights seriously but they have not added human rights clauses to their contract.

"This is a public institution, not a private company; they have to respect human rights, not only for their own reputation but also because their mandate is about educating people. They are supposed to have loftier ideals and not just be about chasing the bottom line."

The British Museum will lend its expertise over 10 years for the creation on Saadiyat Island of the Zayed National Museum, named after the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who founded the UAE in 1971.

Due to open in 2012 or 2013, it is being designed by Norman Foster's architectural practice and will explore the history and culture of the UAE.

The British Museum will advise on design, construction, museography and curatorial programming.

Abu Dhabi has put laws in place to protect the workers and is taking criticism seriously as it seeks to transform itself into a cultural centre respected around the world. …