22 September 2021
Activists are worried about a growing number of deaths and injuries among food delivery riders in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The activists say the coronavirus health crisis has pushed millions of people indoors. The restrictions have resulted in a sharp increase in online orders for delivery.
That increase has changed Dubai's streets and stores. It has brought motorcycle riders, mostly from Pakistan, to the work of food delivery. The industry has few rules and can be dangerous.
Most riders are paid $2 to $3 for each delivery instead of hourly pay. This leads riders to race across the city to keep up with the orders. It also gives them a reason to try to deliver as many orders as possible. The conditions riders usually face have become even more dangerous because of restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Dubai is a rich city that runs on low-paid migrant labor from Africa and Asia. Workers in Dubai have few protections. They depend on sponsors who guarantee their work visas.
Karen Young is with the Middle East Institute, a research group in Washington, D.C. She said the visa sponsors are usually responsible for mistreatment. She said, "That's where people feel they're unable to change jobs or even to complain about working conditions."
On Dubai's streets, more than 12 delivery drivers who spoke to the Associated Press said they knew of two or three co-workers who were killed every month. Many said they have bad memories of seeing coworkers killed.
Dubai recorded 448 deaths from car accidents in 2019. There are not yet official numbers for 2020. But safety activists say at least 70 delivery riders were hospitalized last year in Dubai, including 24 who died.
The state-linked Emirati newspaper The National reported that 12 delivery riders were killed in April. A police official has said, "When money comes into the equation, safety is put aside."
Companies like Deliveroo, based in Britain, and Talabat use other companies to provide them with drivers and vehicles. Industry experts say delivery drivers in Dubai often lack protective equipment and safety training. The companies provide $27 a month for vehicle services and repair.
Dubai's Road and Transportation Authority told The Associated Press that safety remains most important as it supports the delivery market's growth. Officials said they have issued new rules like reducing how far drivers can ride.
Riders for Deliveroo and Talabat said they received limited insurance. It pays a few hundred dollars with no death or accident payments. Several riders who were in accidents said they returned to Pakistan to get healthcare after their insurance would not pay the costs in Dubai.
Mohammed Asin is a delivery rider in Dubai. He said he never would have left his family in Sialkot, Pakistan, if it were not for his childhood classmate, 22-year-old Hamed Shafiq who rode for Talabat.
"He kept saying, ‘Join me, this is the dream. We can make real money. Our families can have a better life,'" Asin said.
On February 16, Asin landed in Dubai and moved in with Shafiq. He signed up for Deliveroo ready to live out the dream.
The next day, his friend was dead. He was hit by a car that went into his path. Asin, however, keeps delivering.
I'm Gregory Stachel.
Isabel Debre reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
delivery – n. the act of taking something to a person or place
visa – n. an official mark or stamp on a passport that allows someone to enter or leave a country usually for a particular reason
complain – v. to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something
equation – n. a complicated situation or issue
insurance – n. an agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house or car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen