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Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies

Rising costs force expats to shelve vacation plans

ABU DHABI — May 19:Come summer, and there’s one thing that everyone is dying to do — get away from the sizzling heat. Especially for the expatriates, there is an eager hope of going back to their hometowns — the place where they grew up, where family eagerly awaits them.

There is so much planning and preparation before going home — tickets to book, gifts to buy, visits to plan, and that’s when the rising costs of living catches up with them, and they are forced to re-evaluate whether they could actually make the trip. But with the rising air fares and tenancy rents, expatriates are forced to budget their trips back home, and often they may decide to give up on a trip altogether.

Khaleej Times investigated into the issue to find out how is the situation this year, taking into consideration the too-many developments and changes that took place ever since everyone had last gone on holiday.

“Families who earlier went home once a year, now go home less frequently, once every other year or even more sporadically. There are others who are considering returning home for good as it becomes harder to save under these circumstances,” said a source in the travel industry. “Still others are looking to immigrate to other countries where they can save more, or where there is less cost of living. Still others opt to send their families home and stay back in the emirates to battle the rising costs,” he added.

This is definitely a problem for those running their own businesses, as shows a survey conducted by this paper.

Eighteen-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Deanne said: “My family is facing this problem for July vacations. In fact, if we don’t go home this year, it will be three years since we’ve last gone home.”

She explained how the rising costs have forced them to pinch their budgets. “It’s not so much the rise in the house rent, but even the rents for office space, stores and warehouses.” said Deanne, whose father runs his own business. All this cuts into the earnings of the expatriate businessman. “The high fares of the major airlines to the subcontinent, especially during the peak season when schools are closed for summer vacation, adds to the burden."

"Barring some budget airlines, most airlines charge very high fares. And even in the case of budget airlines, you have to book in advance to avail of the cheap rates. It’s hard to get leave on time, so it’s difficult to plan ahead. Booking in advance is not easy as it is not possible to know when exactly one can get leave from work or when the school vacations are,” said Deanne.

Many families give up their plans of a trip back home and settle for a vacation in the various holiday spots in the UAE like Hatta, Khorfakkan, Dibba and more, another travel industry source explains. However, those who opt for what can be termed as ‘domestic tourism’ miss out the most memorable part of the vacation — meeting friends and relatives back home.

As another expatriate put it: “Indians are very family-oriented, they want to meet the parents. We end up missing out on family events and weddings.”

When asked about the added expense that comes with gifting family back home, 25-year-old Akshaye shrugged off that issue. “It’s not the expenses to go home, but the expenses when you get home.” All the travelling and shopping when back home also counts. Holidays also seem daunting if you have a large family, as the expenses multiply.

Does the expensive lifestyle over here, coupled with the longing to be with loved ones push families to return home for good?

Said 45-year-old Leena: “We do consider returning home, but we love Abu Dhabi and the multi-cultural environment.” She, however, added that she prefers to stay on instead of returning, even as financial pressures catch up with her.

It seems the only solution to cutting the travel expenses, according to many, is to fly by various budget airlines.

“Schools should schedule and announce holidays some months in advance so that families can book the tickets ahead of time and avail of discounts,” suggested Ahmed, a private sector employee. “Companies and authorities can clarify with employees their leave dates and vacation time, so that they can plan their holidays well in advance. Companies can certainly consider offering tickets once a year to their employees to return home. Expatriates longing for home would certainly welcome these measures,” he added.


Man jailed for having illicit affair

Abu Dhabi: May 19:A man who had an illicit affair with his sister's maid will face a year in jail followed by deportation, the federal supreme court has confirmed.

The man, identified as A.H., had sex with the maid, identified as J.B., in his sister's house.

The Sharjah Court of Appeal had found that the two had an illicit affair. The appeal court reduced the five-year term given to him by a lower court to a year in jail followed by deportation. The apex court upheld this ruling.



Crackdown on 'pests' at beaches 

Dubai: May 19:New watch towers will be erected and patrol boats stationed around Dubai's public beaches in a major police crackdown on sexual harassment by men, said a senior officer.

Beaches and parks have been plagued by allegations of women being harassed by groups of men.

Now Dubai police plan to increase their presence with beach-goers being monitored by CID officers in the new towers and patrol boats.

Brigadier Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation (CID), told Gulf News: "We have started building new watch towers where CID officers in addition to rescue staff will be placed to control the beach and identify the men who are pestering women.

"Beach harassment is a problem Dubai Police are all too familiar with.

"This decision comes upon the orders of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to create a more healthy, comfortable and secure atmosphere on the open beaches in Dubai."

Brig Al Mazeina added: "Watch towers will be elected along Dubai's open beaches and CID officers will be there looking through their binoculars watching people to spot any illegal activity on the beach.

"Once they identify any disorder on the beach or they feel that there are people behaving improperly or abnormally the CID officers will take strict action against offenders.

"The officers will send them to the police station and make them sign an undertaking that if they continue to harass women on beaches, they are liable to be deported."

Brig Al Mazeina also explained: "Police patrol boats in the water will carry out non-stop inspections to crack down on offenders who are following and pestering women in the water as well.

"Neither jet skis nor cameras are allowed in the open beaches. Our officers are very helpful and quick to act when any annoying action is identified."

The head of CID said he expected the new watch towers to become operational in the next few weeks some even as early as next week.

He remarked: "Although we still have complaints against men pestering female beach-goers and their families, the number has decreased after the formal decision to name and shame men guilty of harassment. Sometimes it leads to one month in prison."

Brig Al Mazeina stressed that Dubai's coastline was a great place to spend a weekend and the experience should not be ruined by harassment.

"Our new policy aims also to prohibit people who strip off and go swimming in their underwear.

"Dubai police is doing its best to control such improper actions and is taking a tough stance against such behaviour."

Women hail police plan to monitor public beaches

Dubai: Women have welcomed a plan by Dubai police to crack down on harassment at the city's beaches.

Ladies living in the emirate say they will feel safer when visiting public beaches thanks to the initiative.

Matilda Quadros, a 32-year-old marketing consultant from India, said: "Absolutely, this is a good idea. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable and not just at beaches but also outside malls and in car parks occasionally.

"As well as these measures it is important that there is immediate action if someone makes a complaint."

Indian account executive Manisha Philip, 24, said: "If they're acting to prevent harassment, it's great, although you cannot stop people from staring.

"In some of the beaches, harassment can be a problem, particularly when there are fewer people around."

Moroccan telecommunications company employee Kaoutar Rafa'a, 30, said the measures would "make women feel more safe".

"It will be good for the ladies who enjoy visiting the beach, although I personally have never had any problems. Living in Dubai is quite safe," she said.

Nadia Golobina, 40, a housewife from Uzbekistan who has four children, said there had been occasions when she had felt uncomfortable because of attention from men.

"Once when I was with my 16-year-old daughter a man sat down and started staring at us. We left the beach and never came back.

"It is a good idea to stop this sort of thing. It will make it safer for women on the beach," she said.

French account director Dinny Crocker, 30, said she tends to go to beaches that charge an entry fee because at these places she feels safer.


Maid rescued after threat to jump to death from balcony

Abu Dhabi : May 19:This was the dramatic moment when a young woman threatened to take her own life by jumping from an apartment in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Quick-thinking plain-clothes police officers saved the life of the 18-year-old Indonesian housemaid who had clambered over the balcony of a seventh-floor flat on the Corniche.

A large crowd had gathered below the 20-storey building last night to watch the half-hour rescue operation. They responded with thunderous applause when the officers managed to rescue the woman.

The teenager, wearing a pink gown had climbed over ever the wall of the apartment and was threatening to jump.

The watchman of the building, was the first to reach flat number 803. Police had not yet arrived and the watchman said that he had tried to convince the maid not to jump, but she refused.

“She just hung on to the bal cony and demanded her passport and her salary,” the man said.

Plain-clothes officers then made their way into the flat. One of the policemen distracted the woman by speaking to her and attempting to get her to calm down, while another climbed out of a window in a neighbouring apartment and inched along the ledge the woman was clinging to.

This officer then grabbed the teenager before she could harm herself.

The watchman of the building said that the woman would not calm down, even after she had been rescued by the local police officers.

She was only persuaded to climb back over the balcony once her employer, in the presence of the police, returned her passport and paid her salary.

According to residents of the building, which contains the Habib Bank and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Parlour on the ground floor, her employers were a Turkish couple, who had only moved into the building about two months ago.


Family of victim pardons killer 25 years after death

Abu Dhabi - May 19:A Pakistani man, who was sentenced to death for the murder of an Indian man 25 years ago, is to be released after the victim’s family decided to show him mercy.

Akthar Hussain, a 70-year-old Pakistani, was sentenced to death for killing Murthad Mohammed, a 29-year-old Indian, who was then running a restaurant in a hotel in Abu Samarah on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road.

UAE authorities approached the Pothiyilthodi family of Thazhekode, in the Malappuram district of Kerala and asked whether they could pardon Hussain – who has already spent 25 years in jail.

“Our family pardoned the man on humanitarian grounds, for the sake of Allah and his family,” said Abdul Razak, an official with Abu Dhabi Customs, and brother of Murthad who was murdered in July 1980.

“My brother was only two years younger than me and was killed just two years after coming to the UAE. Murthad was murdered on a day in Ramadan – he was in a restaurant in a hotel after taking the early morning sahar [breakfast]. Hussain came to loot the hotel along with Mushtaq [an accomplice]. Murthad and a fellow worker overpowered Mushtaq and tied his hands. In a bid to help Mushtaq, Hussain, who was fleeing with stolen goods, returned and stabbed Murthad fatally,” Razak said.

“The death of my brother when he was still so young – and for such a small amount of money – shocked my family.” The killers were traced by police with the help of a helicopter. Hussain and a relative, Sardar Khan, were found hiding in a small cave, with the takings from the robbery.

The Shariah Court in Al Ain sentenced Hussain to death while his companion was deported to Pakistan – after his hands had been cut off for stealing.

The UAE ended judicial killings in June 1985, and Hussain’s life was spared.

A death sentence by a Shariah court can only be overturned with a family pardon.

“There are 15 members in our family.When I was contacted by the authorities in September 2005 and asked whether out family would pardon I called all the family.We decided to pardon the man and gave a pardon letter to the Shariah court through the Indian Consulate,” said Razak.

Once the court proceedings and documentation are complete the court order stipulates that Hussain will escorted to the airport and deported to Pakistan.

“Let the old man enjoy the rest of his life with his family in Pakistan,” added Razak. “We would not gain anything from an old man’s death.”



Cars exported from Aweer seized in Kenya as they are in Interpol stolen list

DUBAI — May 19:A number of cars purchased from Al Aweer's used car market in Dubai have been impounded in an East African country because of being listed as stolen cars by Interpol, it was learnt.

However, police sources here deny that stolen cars are re-exported from the emirate.

A Kenya-based resident who disclosed the fact, expressed concern regarding the brazen sale of such stolen cars in the Dubai market. How can the Dubai Government Issue export licences to such cars, he wondered. Brigadier Khamis Matter Al Mazina, Director of Criminal Investigation Department at Dubai Police, told Khaleej Times that the UAE is committed to international agreements including its Interpol membership. Dubai Police and the customs department have common security and check mechanism and linked through a computer to coordinate and check Interpol lists regarding stolen cars.

He confirmed that no cars are registered in the UAE before checking the Interpol lists to ensure that it was not stolen from any country. They also coordinate to ensure that car showrooms are legally registered in the UAE in order to protect the buyers. He denied | that the stolen cars are re-exported from Dubai, adding, that customs authorities check the engine and chassis numbers of all imported and exported cars to make sure that they are not stolen.

An official from a car showroom in Sharjah said that the car thieves use different techniques for stealing luxury vehicles. They usually take the stolen cars to a scrap shop and replace the car-model plate and the chassis number giving the stolen cars a different identity and a legitimate appearance to vehicles purchased from abroad.

He said that the thieves export the stolen vehicles in parts in containers so that it can be either reassembled or sold as spare parts, which is worth two to three times the value of the vehicle. He said car thieves often move these vehicles from UAE's open borders across neighboring countries.

A police official confirmed that stolen cars are brought into Dubai's shores but car thieves do not go through any registration procedures in Dubai. Instead, they re-export them to select destinations.

The Dubai police, in collaboration with Interpol, keep close track of vehicles listed as stolen in Japan, Britain and Europe. Following the theft, these cars are generally exported to Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania through Dubai. However, he said that the UAE authorities have no knowledge about the export of stolen cars.


Minister sees night shifts as way to save workers from the summer heat

DUBAI — May 19:The Ministry of Labour sees in the suggestion of introducing night-only shifts for construction workers in summer a solution to exposing them to the scorching sun.

Commenting on Khaleej Times’ suggestion on the night-only shifts, Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, Minister of Labour said that the ministry has no objection to construction companies operating night-only shifts during the blazing summer months.

Dr Al Kaabi explained that the Federal Labour Law No. 8 of 1980 stipulates that workers in all fields should put in eight hours a day. “But the law did not specify if these eight hours are to be during the day or the night,” he observed, adding that the decision to adopt this suggestion lies completely in the hands of the civic bodies in the emirates and the contracting companies.

“If companies find it appropriate for them to operate night-only shifts, the problem of subjecting workers to the burning sun in summer will be solved. Furthermore, such a decision will save labourers the inconvenience of having extended working days,” Dr Al Kaabi observed.

The Minister however, disclosed that the ministry will shortly issue a new decision concerning the noon-break which was imposed last year on all construction companies.

“The ministry is discussing at present the mid-day break rule with the parties concerned, | and very soon, we will issue a fresh decision in this regard, but construction companies have the option to operate night-only shifts if they wish to,” he added.

Khaleej Times has learnt that the discussions with the relevant authorities ended with the view that the four-hours mid-day break between 12.30 to 4.30pm during July and August be reduced to just two hours.

“The viewpoint of the companies in this regard was that it was difficult to transport workers from and to the worksite during the break. They argue that half the break is consumed on roads from the worksites to the labour camps and vice versa,” Dr Al Kaabi said, observing that even workers were not in favour of the break introduced last summer, because their working days were eventually extended by eight hours so they did not have sufficient time to rest after the long working days



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