Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai

Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai

Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai

Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai


The images of human trafficking are all too often reduced to media tales of helpless young women taken by heavily accented, dark-skinned captors- but the reality is a far cry from this stereotype. In the Middle East, Dubai has been accused of being a hotbed of trafficking. Pardis Mahdavi, however, draws a more complicated and more personal picture of this city filled with migrants. Not all migrant workers are trapped, tricked, and abused. Like anyone else, they make choices to better their lives, though the risk of ending up in bad situations is high.

Legislators hoping to combat human trafficking focus heavily on women and sex work, but there is real potential for abuse of both male and female migrants in a variety of areas of employment- whether on the street, in a field, at a restaurant, or at someone's house. Gridlock explores how migrants' actual experiences in Dubai contrast with the typical discussions- and global moral panic- about human trafficking.

Mahdavi powerfully contrasts migrants' own stories with interviews with U. S. policy makers, revealing the gaping disconnect between policies on human trafficking and the realities of forced labor and migration in the Persian Gulf. To work toward solving this global problem, we need to be honest about what trafficking is- and is not- and to finally get past the stereotypes about trafficked persons so we can really understand the challenges migrant workers are living through every day.


onboard this aircraft the following languages are spoken by our crew: Arabic, English, Tagalog, French, Italian, German, Amharic, Hindi, Urdu, Pashtu, Dari, Singalese, Mandarin, and Thai. We hope this will further assist you in having a pleasant flight,” said the milky-smooth voice over the loudspeaker. I am a passenger today onboard Emirates Air, which is flying me from London Heathrow to Dubai (or dxb, as the locals refer to it). a Malaysian flight attendant comes to my row and kneels down to hand me and my rowmates a series of menus delineating cuisine from different parts of Asia. I know the flight attendant is Malaysian because her name tag states her country just below her name, Sumitra. She catches me looking and smiles at me shyly.

“She forgot to tell passengers that we also speak Malay onboard,” she says, offering us pens for making our food selections on the menu.

The woman to my left tosses the menu into the seat pocket in front of her.

“I’m having the Halal meal, which isn’t on here,” she announces. She adjusts her head scarf, which seems to be perpetually falling around her shoulders.

I smile and glance at the woman to my right, who has just told me she is traveling to Dubai for the first time. She is from the Philippines and was routed through London for some unexplained reason. the woman is busy with the in-flight entertainment unit that makes flying on Emirates such a treat: over 150 films, and a nice-sized screen makes any long flight more bearable.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.