Storyteller Photographer Carlos Ramiro is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the ‘Sky Men Project’.  To see Carlos’ body of work, click on any image.


Details of part of the rappelling material (harness, ropes, carabiners, descender, etc) of an immigrant worker who cleaning and maintaining skyscrapers facades.


Hands of an immigrant worker burned and full of calluses due to the many hours of friction without protection with the rappelling ropes.
Hands of an immigrant worker burned and full of calluses due to the many hours of friction without protection with the rappelling ropes.


All individual rappelling and safety material (helmet, harness, rope, carabiners, descender, etc) used by immigrant workers for their cleaning and maintenance work on skyscraper facades. Absolutely overwhelming to think that the lives of these migrant workers, hanging dozens or hundreds of meters above the ground, depend on that flimsy rappelling and safety equipment.


Detail of the seat and the rappelling equipment and rear safety of an immigrant worker who cleans and maintains the facades of skyscrapers.


The city of Dubai, capital of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the 7 Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, is an impressive architectural work. Built on the sands of the desert, with more than 400 skyscrapers, the vast majority of these towering buildings are office and hotel towers, with countless glass windows. The cleaning and maintenance of the facade of these skyscrapers is carried out mostly by immigrant workers from India, Pakistan and Nepal, with very low salaries, around 600 US dollars a month, (compared to the more than 4,000 US dollars of average monthly salary in New York for the same job and qualification), and in very harsh working conditions, in some extreme cases, over 40 degrees Celsius. The work is carried out completely by hand and rappelling, despite taking all the safety measures, the risks are very high for these workers.


Portrait of Amir Khan (right) and Surat (left), migrant workers from Pakistan and India respectively, during a short break from their work maintaining and cleaning skyscrapers facades.


The United Arab Emirates is the country with the highest percentage of immigrant population in the world. The vast majority of workers in the country come from the Indian subcontinent. The massive arrival of cheap labor in the UAE has its origins in the mid-twentieth century, adapting a labor model based on the temporary link of a worker to an individual (their employer) or to a private company, and not to the state. The Kafala, which literally means patronage in Arabic, grants the patron (Kafeel) an asymmetric, disproportionate and very high power with respect to the employee. The Kafeel has the power to control the legal status of migrant workers beyond any employment relationship.  Employees subjected to the Kafala method cannot freely change jobs or leave the country, if they decide to break these rules, their work and residence visas are canceled.


Portrait of Surat during a short break, an immigrant worker from India who cleans and maintains skyscraper facades.


   The lack of basic labor rights continues to be a problem in the United Arab Emirates, the prohibition to change or leave the country if the worker so wishes, in addition to labor abuses such as low wages, long hours, lack of legal protection, the banning of unions or the overcrowding conditions in which works live continues to be everyday life for thousands of immigrant workers in the UAE.


Three immigrant workers from the Indian subcontinent rappelling with their buckets and jugs dangling from their bodies, try to stay close to the facade of the skyscraper using the suction cups as they carry out cleaning work.


Two immigrant workers from the Indian subcontinent with all the buckets and jugs dangling from their bodies, one of them sitting on a wooden plank, the other only on their harnesses, rappelling cleaning the main facade of a skyscraper where other neighboring skyscrapers are reflected.


 All images and text © Carlos Ramiro



See also:

Holy Ink

By Carlos Ramiro




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