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3 workers died building Dubai Expo, officials acknowledge

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian (3rd from left) takes part alongside Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimi (left), and French Trade Minister Franck Riester (2nd from left), in a call with a French astronaut aboard the International Space Station, from the Al-Wasl Dome at the Expo 2020, in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on October 2, 2021. (AFP)
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian (3rd from left) takes part alongside Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimi (left), and French Trade Minister Franck Riester (2nd from left), in a call with a French astronaut aboard the International Space Station, from the Al-Wasl Dome at the Expo 2020, in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on October 2, 2021. (AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Three workers died and more than 70 suffered serious injuries building Dubai’s Expo 2020 site, officials say, while insisting safety standards were “world-class.”

The figures are revealed after the European parliament called for a boycott of the six-month world fair, criticizing the United Arab Emirates’ human rights record and “inhumane” practices towards immigrant laborers.

More than 200,000 workers constructed the huge site on the outskirts of Dubai, which features hundreds of pavilions and other facilities on a showground twice the size of Monaco.

The UAE and fellow Gulf nation Qatar, host of next year’s World Cup, are frequently in the crosshairs of activist groups over their treatment of laborers, often from South Asia, who build their ambitious developments.

“Unfortunately, there have been three work-related fatalities, 72 serious injuries to date,” an Expo statement says, calling the welfare of laborers its “top priority.”

It says that 247 million work hours had been completed at the site, adding that the frequency of accidents was lower than Britain’s.

“We have established world-class policies, standards and processes that protect and support the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone involved in Expo 2020 Dubai,” the statement says.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who visits the Expo today, says that France was “not part of” the European parliament’s resolution.

“Our relation with UAE is a strategic one, it’s very close, and we can say things in all transparency and if we need to say something to UAE government, well we do so but behind close doors,” he tells reporters.

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