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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Hundred Petition for cheap calls

UAE : 23 Aug : Hundreds of UAE residents have signed an online petition calling on telecoms regulators to allow international PC-to-phone calls at cheap rates. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) programs such as Skype and Vonage offer customers low-rate phone calls and were widely used in the UAE, even though they are technically illegal. Sites such as Skype have been blocked in much of the UAE for months, but at the weekend were also blocked in other areas, such as free zones, which were previously unaffected by the telecoms proxy server block.

That prompted UAE residents to begin an online petition, at Yesterday morning the petition contained only a handful of names, but numbers grew rapidly. As 7DAYS went to press last night the figure was 320. But last night a source at the UAE’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) blasted claims VOIP was banned for purely commercial reasons.

The petition reads: “As a large proportion of the population in the UAE are expatriate workers, we feel the recent decision to block VOIP applications such as Skype and Vonage to be extremely unfair.” Names and comments suggest that it has been signed by people from a all nationalities, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Some alleged the interests of operators such as Etisalat were being placed above those of consumers saying that “talking to family and friends cannot be against moral beliefs, the policy must be purely based on financial grounds.”

An Etisalat spokesman defended the company saying it’s up to the TRA to allow or ban VOIP.

“Etisalat is just a communication provider which operates under the rules and regulations set by the TRA,” he added. Last night Osman Sultan, the CEO of Du, the new telecoms operator due to begin in the UAE later this year, confirmed that his company would have to abide by any TRA ban on VOIP. Last night a spokesman for the TRA said it is currently studying the issue and had not come to a decision. But another TRA source, who did not wish to be named, added: “This is not just about cheap phone calls for consumers, there are aspects of national security and operators’ interest that has to be addressed and investigated. It’s simply false to claim we are only interested with protecting the operators’ interest. After all, we are all consumers and cheaper calls would serve us all, but we have to do it in an organised and responsible manner."


Confusion over luggage policy 

Dubai: 23 Aug: Passengers going to London are being wrongly told by some Etihad Airways staff that they cannot take hand luggage, travellers have said.

The airline's official policy, as stated by officials and on its website, is that one piece of hand luggage is allowed for those flying to the UK.

The apparent confusion over rules follows a report in Gulf News a few days ago that Qatar Airways staff in Dubai were banning hand luggage for travellers to London, even though according to company policy it should be allowed.

During a visit to Etihad's Shaikh Zayed Road offices in Dubai yesterday, a British executive said she was told she would not be allowed hand luggage on her Abu Dhabi to Manchester flight later this week.

"I asked if I could take any hand luggage and they said no," she said.

An Etihad representative also told her over the telephone that she would have to bring any essential items on board the aircraft in a transparent bag.

When Gulf News rang Etihad's Shaikh Zayed Road office to enquire what the rules were, a staff member said: "Hand baggage is not allowed for the UK except passport and boarding card."

This contradicts company policy on Etihad's website which states that one piece of cabin baggage is allowed. Items such as mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras are all permitted on board, as are any items bought in the departure lounge.

Tougher rules on hand luggage have been imposed on some flights after British authorities earlier this month uncovered a plot to blow up planes travelling between the UK and the US.

Ian Ferguson-Brown, head of brand management and communications for Etihad, said he was "quite surprised" to hear reports that airline staff were telling passengers hand luggage was not allowed on flights to the UK.

"We have been really clear to all the staff what the guidelines are. People are allowed cabin baggage as long as it doesn't contain liquids and is no bigger than a laptop bag," he said.


Travel agent arrested for selling 'non-existent holidays'

Dubai:23 Aug: Police have arrested a suspect who allegedly conned a number of residents out of hundreds of thousands of dirhams, saying his tourism company offered attractive summer vacation packages, a police source said.

The source told Gulf News yesterday that the suspect, an Egyptian, identified as S.A.D. was arrested on Monday night in a police raid on a building in Al Qusais where he was in hiding. He was taken to Al Qusais Police Station.

He said the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was currently investigating the case and questioning S.A.D., the main suspect. Police said the suspect, who operates a tourism company, had placed an advertisement in several newspapers saying the company was offering attractive summer packages to European and Asian destinations for people seeking affordable vacations.

Police said people from different emirates approached the company to arrange their holidays. Some people were taken in by the attractive offer, which included providing accommodation, transportation and food in addition to air tickets.

The source said the CID are investigating a number of complaints lodged by the victims at Al Qusais Police Station who fell prey to S.A.D. and paid between Dh20,000 to Dh50,000 each.

Some victims told police that they travelled with their families to their holidays offered by the company, but found themselves lost and stranded in the foreign country, as they could not find the promised facilities. Some of the victims who had paid the company could not travel as the company had shut down and its staff had fled before completing their travel procedures.

According to the source, police earlier arrested a number of the company's employees for interrogation before arresting the main suspect.

The source said the company's staff had closed down the office located in Al Mulla Plaza, when they felt their racket would be revealed.

The company was issuing fake hotel reservations, as there was nothing provided for the victims, except the one-way air tickets.

The source said that police were investigating whether it was the same tourism company that had carried out similar bogus transactions last summer. Police had arrested the suspects then and referred them to the Public Prosecution, but they were acquitted.

Police have urged the public to check the credibility of the tourism companies they deal with.

They should also check their reservations at the hotels booked for them. The public should also make sure they are issued with return tickets.


Surveillance camera nails woman thief

AJMAN — 23 Aug: It was a gamble for Vijayanand to install a hidden surveillance camera in his flat after a series of thefts that took place in his apartment recently. But it finally paid off yesterday when the Ajman Police arrested the thief with the help of the images captured on the camera.

It was his neighbour, Ayesha Naz Mehdi, hailing from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, who was caught on camera stealing money from his flat in a building located in the port and free-zone area in Ajman, on Sunday. Vijayanand, a businessman from Kerala, lodged a complaint with the police submitting the footage. Ayesha was held thereafter.

Vijayanand said, “Since December last year, cash, jewellery and electronic items were being stolen from my apartment. I tried to change the lock, but to no avail. My workers used to come home for different purposes and I assumed that it must be one of them who was the culprit.”

“I have lost a total of Dh18,000 in cash and jewellery and other belongings worth Dh16,000. So I decided to install a surveillance camera at home,” he said.

Expressing his shock, the Indian businessman said, “She had worked with me for a short time. She lives next door and I never expected that she was stealing money and things from my house,” he said.

“I lodged a complaint with Ajman police and handed over the tape. They arrested her immediately and following investigation admitted that she was behind the series of thefts after the police showed her the videotape,” he said.

It was found that Ayesha used a duplicate set of keys to enter his apartment.


20 arrested in Bur Dubai for indulging in immoral acts

DUBAI — 23 Aug: The Dubai police arrested at least 20 people, mostly women in a raid on a building in Bur Dubai on Sunday for allegedly indulging in prostitution, eyewitnesses said.

The arrest follows a written petition lodged by the residents last week complaining about increasing number of prostitutes in the area.

According to the eyewitnesses on Sunday afternoon police arrived with two vans to the building and blocked all the entrances. “They then rushed in and searched all apartments. After two hours search they arrested at least 20 people most of them were women and few men, most likely their pimps or ‘customers’,” said an eyewitness.

He disclosed that the women who were arrested were from Russia, China, India and Bangladesh. All the men were from India. All those arrested were escorted to the vans and taken away.  A source from Al Raafa Dubai police confirmed the arrests but refused to disclose more details.

According to residents, they lodged a petition after the women started loitering on the roads even during the day touting for “business”. “It was very difficult for us to live here with families. A lot of men roamed the area looking for these women,” said a resident.

“We appreciate the fact that the police listened to us and took action,” he added.

Meanwhile, Khaleej Times learnt that residents in other areas in Bur Dubai and Deira might also lodge similar complaints with the police. A resident of Naif Road area in Deira said: “We are planning to file a petition with the police to deal with the increasing number of prostitutes in the area.

Earlier they used to hang around touting for business only at night. But now they have even started soliciting business during the day,” he said.


More couples forced to live separately during week

UAE : 23 Aug: Living together separately is a new marriage concept evolving in the UAE with more and more couples choosing to work in two different emirates, and cohabiting only during the weekends.

When rising living expenses and better career prospects make them live apart despite being married, “Weekend Couples” say they are adapting to the new social and economic realities of life.

“It was an inevitable decision when I took up a new job in Dubai while my husband still worked in Abu Dhabi. You can’t sustain a family here with just one salary,” said Faten, a journalist from Syria who is married to a media professional.

“This is a new concept for the Arab women who never lived outside the cool confines of her parents’ or husband’s house. But one has to move with time. If I am away from my family, it is not just for my personal or professional gain, I am trying to give my kids more comforts,” remarked Faten, who added that it is safe and secure for any woman to live on her own in the UAE.

“I would not have even dreamt about such an arrangement if I were back home or for that matter in any other country.” Alia Rahman and Mohammed Ibrahim, a young couple from India, blame their week-long separation on their career ambitions.

“She is working and at the same time doing her MBA in Dubai. So when I got a good offer in Abu Dhabi, we had no choice except to live a weekend married life and make the best out of it,” said Ibrahim, a senior executive.

Fully agreeing with her husband, HR Manager Alia insisted that separation is good only as a temporary arrangement.

“I don’t think anybody should plan such a life in the long run. It will definitely take its toll on your marriage,” she remarked.

But couples such as Mathew Johnson and Nancy from Kerala disagreed and thought distance would help hearts grow fonder.

“Living and working in two different emirates for the last two years has helped us retain a degree of freshness in our marriage. When we meet on weekends, it is like falling in love all over again. There are no more arguments, no complaints and no bad feelings,” said the physiotherapist couple, who work in Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi.

However, considering the high rate of broken marriages in the UAE, marriage counsellors have sounded the alarm bell saying that prolonged separation could lead to divorce in some relationships.



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