NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Prostitution - Police Target Hotels, Bars in New Crackdown
Dubai - Nov. 19:Several hotels and nightclubs in Bur Dubai and Diera were raided in an apparent clampdown on prostitution over the past three weeks, hotel sources confirmed yesterday. In what hotel sources describe as the “most strict raids so far,” police officials checked hotels for several days, arresting “guests” without proper papers. “They were catching people without visas,” the public relations manager of one hotel said.
Brigadier Jamal Al Marri, deputy commandant general of Dubai police confirmed “the random inspections” but said those were routine and usual measure to check if clubs and bars are abiding by the rules. “It’s time for many of those establishments to renew their operating licences and we just wanted to see if their licences should be renewed,” he said.
A source in a popular hotel in Bur Dubai said police asked “all suspicious women to step out of the clubs and checked their identification papers before arresting a few.” Brigadier Al Marri said that measure is not unusual when police have a reason to suspect the venue is being used for prostitution. He said deporting prostitutes “happens all the time and we don’t consider it deportation as much as returning people who are being victimised and used for illegal activities back to their home countries,” he said.
Al Marri would not say how many arrests were made in the past few weeks but said people get “deported daily for illegal activities or invalid residency.” Another hotel source claimed the police appeared to be on a mission to crackdown any immoral trafficking in the city. “There are police raids every year during Ramadan, but this time it’s very severe. Police are visiting hotels every day for the last few weeks and arresting suspicious people,” said the man who works for a Diera hotel.
Al Marri admitted bars and clubs in some areas might face greater scrutiny than others.“In general, it’s perfectly normal to have tighter inspections when establishments serve alcohol or have late operating hours but some get tighter inspections because of suspicions of illegal activities,” he added.
Several other hotel owners surveyed by 7DAYS refused to comment on the raids and maintained that it was part of the usual police work.
Family await inquiry
Dubai - Nov. 19: His distraught wife, Nahid said yesterday that she is still waiting for the final report from the department of Health and Medical Services that will determine the cause of death. “I want to fight for justice but it is possible only after the report states the cause of death,” said Nahid.
The family was completely shattered after the death of their sole breadwinner. After a month of struggle Nahid is slowly recovering, said her relatives. “She has found a better job and Shawkat’s parents have also come from India to support her,” said a close relative.
Earlier Dubai police had confirmed that the cause of death was malpractice and blamed the operating doctor for the accident. However, the morbidity and mortality committee of the department of health and medical services is reviewing autopsy reports to decide whether malpractice has taken place and to what degree.
The department of health began the investigations in the second week of October but is yet to release the report. “Officials say that the report is ready and it’s a matter of days before it is handed over,” said a family member, who said he was frustrated by the long wait for justice.
Fire guts storage facilities
Dubai - Nov. 19: Dubai civil defence put out a fire that destroyed two storage facilities in Al Quoz area last night. Police sources said no one was injured in the fire, which started around 5:30 pm and took more than 50 minutes to extinguish. It destroyed two warehouses storing motorcycle and car parts. “Causes of the fire are still unknown but thankfully we were able to stop the fire from expanding to neighbouring facilities,” Mahmood Hamad, head of PR at Dubai civil defence said.
Police are currently investigated the cause of the fire and will release the results later this week. The financial extent of the damage is not known.
Flood of calls inundates taxi service hotline
Abu Dhabi - Nov. 19: : The Taxi Transport Regulation Centre (TTRC) of Abu Dhabi has been receiving a flood of calls inquiring about job opportunities and offering suggestions on future services.
The centre has set up a multi-lingual hotline to provide information on the emirate's future commuting system that will be managed by several private companies.
The new project, called Abu Dhabi's 21st Century Taxi System, was launched under a law issued by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in his capacity as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi on October 1.
All the present 8,000 private taxis in the emirate will be phased out from the middle of next year.
The new system is being introduced following complaints from commuters against reckless driving, poor conditions of vehicles, lack of cleanliness and arrogant behaviour of the existing taxi drivers.
The hotline (600 56 0006), according to the centre, is open for public suggestions such as customer-friendly services and ceiling of fares for the new taxis.
Commenting on the success of the hotline, Khalid Saleh Al Rashedi, TTRC General Manager, said: "The hotline was set up to facilitate queries and provide detailed information about the roll-out of Abu Dhabi's 21st Century Taxi System.
"This service is part of our efforts to be transparent and fair in reaching out to taxi owners, taxi drivers and members of the public in three languages - Arabic, English and Urdu."
Hashil Saeed Al Mugiri, an Abu Dhabi based taxi licence owner said: "I am very happy with the new compensation scheme because it saves me the hassle of dealing with the drivers. I am looking forward to the new system where we will have hygienic taxis and well-behaved drivers."
Keep banned drugs off travel kit
Dubai - Nov. 19: : Having medicines in your travel bag is second nature to most people, but if you're not careful, those medicines to relieve a cough or treat painful gastric ulcers can land you in jail.
As signatory to the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which enforces two earlier conventions against narcotics and psychotropic substances, the UAE prohibits certain chemicals, and medicines with these chemicals, from entering the country.
Some medicines, which are over-the-counter in other countries, are also considered controlled items in the UAE as they produce effects that contravene local laws.
To bring these medicines in, residents and non-residents alike must have a medical prescription from a UAE-licenced physician. For those who received treatment abroad, they must show a medical report from a doctor detailing their illness and the reason for taking the medicines.
Dr Easa Al Mansouri, director of the Pharmacy and Drug Supply Department at the Ministry of Health, said this was to make sure that the medicines would be used legally. "How can [the customs officer] be sure if [an overseas] prescription is legitimate?" he said.
"If they have a medical report with them, then nobody should stop them," added Humaid Al Shamsi, assistant undersecretary for pharmaceutical supplies at the ministry.
To be on the safe side, both suggested visitors and residents should forego bringing in the 'dodgy' medicine and get a prescription upon arrival in the UAE. However, that might be a problem as many people are unaware of these regulations until they land in trouble.
Although the troublesome medicines are listed in various UAE health websites - there are 365 of them - finding them is a roundabout process.
"There are no warnings posted at the airport. Travel agencies don't tell us," said Dr Mohammad Samir, who recently moved to Dubai.
"My friend's mother was stopped once because she brought in a medicine her doctor prescribed to her in the UK that's not allowed here," said Dr Baher Massoud, medical director at a pharmaceutical company.
"It's very important to know. If we bring a medicine and we don't know it's illegal, it may jeopardise [our stay in the UAE]," added Michael Lopez, who recently moved to Dubai from the Philippines.
22-storey building implodes in 17 seconds
ABU DHABI — Nov. 19: A thick cloud of dust enveloped Al Khalidyah district of Abu Dhabi following an implosion at a 22-storey building in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The demolition process was carried by Abu Dhabi Police in cooperation with a company specialised in the field.
The operation lasted 17 seconds and hundreds of people gathered to watch the demolition. Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Saeed Al Afreet, Chief of the General Department of Public Security and Outlets in Abu Dhabi Police, said the police, in coordination with the municipality, the Civil Defence as well as the Rapid Intervention Department initiated proper security measures prior to the blast.
He said the bodies concerned evacuated the inhabitants of the structure along with residents of the 16 neighbouring buildings before the demolition operation.
As many as 882 apartments were evacuated and the people relocated at Abu Dhabi Corniche where they were provided with food and two tents housing men and women.
New MoL system to evaluate firms
ABU DHABI — Nov. 19: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) will soon launch a new system to detect whether companies are abiding by labour laws and ministerial directives.
The system will be introduced within a few days coinciding with the new inspection campaign that will kick off next week.
Qasseem Jameel, Head of the Inspection Department at the MoL, said, “The ministry will apply a new method of evaluating companies to find out whether they are complying with its instructions or whether they are in breach of any regulation.”
“The automatic system will be the next step following inspection visits. Companies will be asked to fill in questionnaires and the information pertaining to whether workers’ wages have been paid on time and there’s suitable work environment for labourers will be fed into our system,” said Jameel.
“The new system will also classify the companies into three categories — A, B and C, based on the number of violations. It will then prepare a chart and calculate the percentage of the level of compliance,” said Jameel.
“This will enable the Inspection Department to get an accurate evaluation of a company. So the MoL will not listen to any excuses from companies flouting rules,” he added.
Meanwhile, MoL has also asked the companies to provide information about labour law provisions and penalty regulations to its employees as part of the workers’ rights.
Qasseem Jameel told Khaleej Times that the ministry was stressing this point because it would serve the rights of the workers in keeping with its mission.
Starting November 20, the ministry will launch an intensive inspection campaign covering the companies and firms to ensure that they have a copy of the labour law in addition to the penalty regulation.
The presence of a copy of the labour law on the premises would be one of the terms and conditions that will be included in the inspection campaign.
“The inspection department will also insist on the delivery of the list of accidents by the companies as we do not receive these details from some establishments which cause a flaw in the accident statistics in the UAE. It may also harm the workers’ rights such as pension and other financial benefits” he added.
“The firms must provide the three-month accidents report to the ministry and no leniency will be shown to the firms that fail to submit this important document,” Jameel added.
Jameel warned that the companies which do not deliver the accident reports to the MoL will face penalties, according to the labour law-article 181 that obligates the firm to pay a fine of Dh3,000 to Dh10,000 and/or sentencing of the owner to a jail term of three to six months. “Moreover, the company’s number will be suspended at the MoL system”.
“The UAE labour law is one of the best laws around the world but only from the legislative side and not from the implementation side,” Jameel admitted and affirmed that the ministry was keen to plug the loopholes.
Metro promises to speed up growth
DUBAI — Nov. 19:The upcoming prestigious Metro Project will present a new face of Dubai when its first phase is completed by September 2009, starting revenue generation.
In order to realise its vision of smooth transportation system within the emirate, the Government of Dubai created the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) on November 1, 2005. The Dubai Metro is the flagship project of the RTA , with the total investment of approximately Dh15.5 billion (inclusive of the project management fees and utility diversions). The state-of-the-artengineering, technological challenges, visibility throughout the city, an architectural showpiece and direct role in providing social benefits are other features of the ambitious project.
In addition, it will be a catalyst for improving real estate value, economic development and urban regeneration along its main route and arteries. Dubai Metro will create employment opportunities for both the local population and the region.
Say the officials: “The Dubai Metro will be a watershed in the Arabian Peninsula as it will be the first Railway System of its kind in the region, hence there is a lot of excitement and support for it.”
As part of its modernity drive, vision and concerns for the environment, the Dubai Government commissioned studies to evaluate most efficient and cost-effective solution to combat traffic congestion and pollution, its by-product. The recommendation of these studies were the creation and development of a Metro for Dubai City.
Explains Abdul Majid Abdul Razzaq Al Khaja, CEO Rail Agency, “The aim of the Metro System is to provide an alternative mode of transport to ease congestion, save travelling time, reduce traffic pollution, improve mobility within the city, provide connection to Dubai International Airport, and deliver modern, comfortable and reliable services to the Metro users.”
Initial studies for developing a metro system started back in 1997 with a feasibility study known as R7100. The study was completed during 1997-2000 with the conclusion that Dubai could not rely solely on Roads Transport Systems to meet its future traffic demands. Between 2000-2002, a follow-up planning study was commissioned under the title of PS002 - Dubai Transit Options Study whereby the initial R700 findings were refined and an initial design concept for a main rail corridor and a Central Business District (CBD) circular were developed with basic design drawings and routes defined.
During the period of 2002-2004, a more detailed planning study known as PS007 was commissioned whereby the Dubai Metro team prepared the preliminary engineering design concepts, technical specifications and tender documentations for a design and build contract based on FIDIC framework and the work was tendered in the marketplace in October 2004.
In July 2005, a design and build contract was awarded to a consortium known as Dubai Rail Link (DURL) that is made up of Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Corporation, Obayashi Corporation, Kajima Corporation and Yapi Markezi of turkey.
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE PROJECT
Dubai Metro will be a world-class, fully automated, driverless railway system. The new Metro will be constructed and delivered in two stages, Red Line (Stage 1) and the Green Line (Stage 2).
In the congested central areas of the city, the Metro lines will be built mainly underground, which will constitute the majority of the Green Line, whereas the Red Line will span along Shaikh Zayed Road, on a viaduct. Around 9,000 workers will be involved in the Dubai Metro project construction work from January 2007.
The Red Line Phase 1, is planned to be completed and to start generating revenue by 09/09/2009
Route covers the area between Rashidiya to Jebel Ali
Length of the Line is approximately 52km
The majority of the line is elevated, except between Port Saeed and Burjuman, where the line is constructed underground
There are 23 elevated stations, one at-grade station and four underground stations planned
Estimated journey duration from one end of the line to the other will be 64 minutes
The Green Line Phase 2, planned to be completed and start generating revenue prior to the date of March 9, 2010. The contract is worth Dh5.7 billion.
Route covers the area between Al Nahda Street to Health Care City
The total length of the line is around 17.6km
The route is made up of 10km elevated section comprising eight stations, and 6.7km underground section including five stations — excluding Union Square and Burjuman (Red Line) Interchange Stations
Estimated journey time from start to finish of the Line is approximately 26 minutes
THE PURPLE AND BLUE LINES
Some 96 kilometres will be added to the Dubai Metro network, with the addition of Purple and Blue railway lines
Two new lines will be added to the existing Red and Green Lines — the 49-km long Purple Line and an approximately 47km-long Blue Line
The 49km-long Purple Line also known as the Express Line — will link Dubai International Airport with Jebel Ali Airport. It will have eight stations and will be operational by 2012 — two years after the completion of the Red and the Green Lines. In total, Dubai will have 318km of metro lines by 2020 as some more tracks will be added gradually with the development of the city
Adnan Al Hammadi, Director of Construction Department, Rail Agency, said that the Purple Line is in the bidding stage now
The RTA officials say that the authority aims to ensure that Dubai Metro is designed to achieve an overall transportation solution taking into consideration other important modes of transport (e.g. buses, taxis and abra). The aim of the transport integration is to complement these other modes of transport and incorporate strategic bus/boat feeder points with flexible and user-friendly metro interchange stations
TRA approves local VoIP
Dubai - Nov. 19: The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said yesterday it would allow internet telephony, or Voice over Internet Protocol technology, but only for local calls within the UAE.
Long-distance calls using VoIP will continue to be prohibited for the time being to protect the revenue telecom operators receive from international calls.
"The policy by the TRA is to allow only etisalat and du to provide VoIP service in the local market," said Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Government Sector Development.
VoIP has proliferated in recent years with free-to-consumer VoIP providers like Skype and Net2Phone.
These popular VoIP services are actively blocked in the UAE, where an overwhelming majority of residents are expatriates from Asia and the West who make frequent calls back home. The TRA has not indicated if it will ever allow consumers to use Skype or Net2Phone legally.
As for allowing long distance calling with VoIP, Al Mansouri said the government was reviewing its telecommunications policies and would eventually permit international VoIP calls.
The news comes as a half-reversal of its announcement in October, when it said it would allow VoIP from the two licensed operators, etisalat and du.
"We are taking it step by step," he said. "At some point VoIP will be liberalised. As for when, I cannot give you a date. We do not want the quality of service to be lacking or the revenues of the operators to be hurt."
The TRA believes 60 per cent of the telecom revenues in the UAE come from international calls, and that allowing VoIP calls could severely hamper the financial performance of operators.
du customers must wait a year to get same prefix
Dubai - Nov. 19: Hopeful new du customers have a decision looming before them if they want to take their etisalat number with them - wait a year for the same number, or wait a few weeks and just change the prefix.
Registering the same number with du will be near instantaneous once the UAE's new telecom operator launches its number booking campaign. du is expected to announce the date of the registration period.
Under this programme, du switchers can keep their seven digit etisalat number. However, they must change the prefix from etisalat's 050 to du's assigned 055 prefix.
Taking the same number including the prefix will take a whole year, according to Osman Sultan, du CEO, who spoke at a roundtable discussion with members of etisalat and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority at yesterday's Gitex technology fair opening.
Sultan said complete number portability wouldn't be available until late 2007. A TRA working group is currently studying the issue.
"We were hoping to have this initially at the launch of our services," he said .
"Once we get the certainty that we will not get this at launch, we worked on a way for us to offer comfort to our customers in the important issues to them. They are telling us that the mobile numbers issue is important to them."
Barring the option to take the whole number to du, Sultan called the alternative offer "a great solution so far."