Discrimination at Dubai airport

dubai airport

Thanks everyone who left kind messages about the passing of my beloved uncle. I entertained myself lately by doing a blog housekeeping – you know, reviewing what’s on my drafts folder, etc and I saw this one I didn’t publish.


This post is inspired by a blog post from blogger Mezba who commented in my discriminated by watchman post. She wrote an amazing article about her recent visit to Dubai that included her first hand experience of racial discrimination right in the airport.

Mezba wasn’t the subject of the discrimination though (she only witnessed).

Then I remembered the time when I was once. I arrived in Dubai in October 1, 2006 from Japan . My present employers  had invited me to come over to Dubai, free flight tickets and 3 days hotel accommodation so they can interview me. They wanted to fly me here so I can see the place so when the interview goes well, I’ll have an idea what Dubai is and if it’s ok to live here.

(Honestly, I didn’t think of coming here but the free tickets and free tour won me over. I was like, heck even if I don’t get the job, at least I can say that I’ve been to Dubai!)

After a 16 hour flight (it wasn’t direct – the plane hopped from Nagoya, Japan to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangkok, Bangkok to New Delhi and then finally to Dubai) I arrived really tired. I walked to the direction of “Passport Control” (Immigration) because as a Japanese passport holder, I don’t need a visa to enter Dubai as a tourist. There was no need for me to collect a tourist visa, usually deposited at a certain counter inside the airport.

* There’s a Visa Collection Section where hundreds of people are queuing to get their visa copies deposited by their employers, friends or relatives.

A big burly Arab man, an airport personnel of course blocked my way and in big voice said, “Hey, Filipini! (they use the term for people from the Philippines sometimes thinking it’s correct like Iraqi or Irani) GO to the visa section, GO! Not allowed to come up to Passport Control without visa, GO!”

He pointed to the visa control section with his big arms and stern face.

As for me, who has the energy to fight after that long, tiring flight? I took out my red passport and showed it to him, with the “Japan” in front. His expression changed in a matter of milliseconds.

The big burly arms and hands pointing to the Visa Collection Section changed directions to the escalator leading to the Passport Control (Immigration), palms open and welcoming.

“Sorry. This way, Madame. Welcome to Dubai.”

In case you’re curious – I didn’t react at all and just went on my way. I was tired and moreover, I couldn’t really blame the guy for assuming I have a Philippine passport (I look very Filipino). But then, is that right? Would you always and readily assume a dark colored person is from Africa? Or a person with small eyes from China (my husband gets this A LOT)? I didn’t make it a big deal but some people might be really offended. I wish airport personnel would be more professional in this matter but then again, racism and racial discrimination is alive and well here – in the everyday job ads, for example. Sadly, discrimination is a fact of life in Dubai.

What would you do if you were in my place?

Top photo credit


  1. I understand and have long since accepted that I will be discriminated upon here in Dubai because of my dark skin, short stature and, well, flat nose. I shrug it off and have learned to prove myself in the workplace. What I can’t stand is the discrimination I get in my own country. Filipinos in the Philippines have always favoured anyone with a lighter skin, an accent and/or a foreign name. I hate that. Whatever happened to “love your own”?



  2. What will the country do without the filipinos here? Sadly, we are used to racial discrimination back home in India (you can google about India being one of the most racist nations in the world) so the situation is here is much better, I must say.



  3. Well…in India they thought I was Chinese. Here in UAE, some think I am Indonesian (as I wear burqa when I go out). And then the Kabayans will stare and stare (that’s rude, right?), then finally say Pinay ka pala. If I go out and get to meet some other people, I’m always asked which country I am from and are surprised by my answer. Hubby said not to mind them, since the way I speak English got some American accent (call center left over, haha!), and that makes them curious.



  4. Discrimination is a disease that goes all around the world unfortunately, and there are many stories like this one. It is a good thing that stories are being published cause it makes it easier for people to be informed, also it can make more other more conscious about these kind of actions. Nice post-



  5. Hi ms! I would like to ask you some questions as i have read in another writeup that your relatives make a stop at sg and then to dubai…… Im really nervous doing that…. I just want to ask,
    1.what did your family wrote in the disembarkation card when they land in sg? Did they indicated that they are on tour and would stay in a hotel?

    2. When they stayed in the airport before flyng to dubai how long dis they stayed there?

    3. Didnt the io im sg questioned them why arr they flyng to dubai since they just landed the same day? I hope you could answer me because im planning to leave next monday and it reallu bothers me…. I am travelling alone so I really want to be prepared on what to say and do



  6. Hi Grace,

    For some reason I never saw this post of yours (and it has been three years!).

    I do love the UAE – I was brought up there. But I do wish people would inter mingle more often and break down barriers. Rather, each community seems to live on its own. Especially the Arabs, South Asians, the Phillipino and the British communities each live in their own bubble, and hardly interact except perhaps at work or at the mall.

    Also, a minor correction – I am a guy!



  7. I had a very bad experience at Dubai airport on 20th dec 2016. I was flying with emirates and was on my transit at Dubai. Was flying from dublin ireland to Bangladesh! Flight from Dublin to Dubai was brilliant very good service !!! When i was going to board to the flight to Dhaka than i saw the true face of Emirates crue !! 99% of the passengers were Bangladeshi !!!
    Here is how they treated us.

    1. They were checking every single hand bag if it’s over weight !! I never faced that on transit. Checking the bags weight wasn’t a problem for me the problem was every white person was allowed to board with smile and without checking their bag!!!!

    2. If any of the darker skin persons bag was over weith of 100 grams he had to pay full 1kg price even though the crue of emirates of origin country allowed the bag !!

    3. If any one wanted to argue with them they shouted at the person and told him to get out !!

    4. One guy was flying from germany and he got too angry and shouted for only 30 sec and they didn’t let him fly on that flight!!!

    5. I told the manager he is being rude to the people, he said he is very rude !! and he wants to be rude.

    6. The worse was i been cleared to board after weighing my bag then boarded me, then unboarded me to check my bag again !! Then they found 3kg over weight on my bag!!! I had to pay for 3kg !!!

    I am living in europe last 7 years and never faced such discrimination and racism !! If it was in the street of dubai and some random person said racist slur to me it would be different but when an institution does that it’s just utterly unacceptable . We felt we been treated like animal there!!

    Going to complain to Emirates and see how it goes but i am not very hopeful about any resonable outcome! ! Is it arab mentality to treat poor people like animal !!!



  8. Been living and working in UAE for around 5 years now. And yes, precisely right, discrimination in this country is a common thing. But it’s not just here, even in my own country you encounter discrimination. We should always be thankful that this country give us the opportunity to grow our careers and help our family back home.



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