NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Passengers stranded as flights delayed
DUBAI & SHARJAH — JUL 12: Many passengers were stranded at Sharjah and Dubai airports yesterday following delay of two Air India Express flights - IX-368 bound for Calicut from Sharjah and IX-312 also for Calicut from Dubai.
The delay of IX-368 on Tuesday night in Sharjah, according to an Air India Express official, was caused by a snag in the aircraft while the Dubai-Calicut flight yesterday afternoon was delayed because of an operational hiccup.
Security personnel were called in after some passengers of IX-368 entered into heated arguments with the airline officials at Sharjah airport, an eyewitness said.
The trouble began after the airline official announced that the flight would take off only after the snag had been rectified, one of the stranded passenger told Khaleej Times. He, however, said the airline did offer hotel accomodation in separate hotels, but the passengers refused, saying they all wanted to be put up in one hotel only.
Confirming the delay, Air India official Jaishree Ramchandran said, “A technical snag was detected in the aircraft scheduled to take off for Calicut from Sharjah. As a result, we had to call for a machine part from India to rectify the error.”
She pointed out that following the delay , “We booked four hotels for the passengers but they wanted to stay together in one hotel only. But,we have technical difficulties to book one hotel for all the passengers.”
“So the passengers decided to stay at the airport instead of accepting our offer,” she said, adding that the airline had served them food and beverages at the airport.
The Calicut-bound flight IX-312 scheduled to leave from Dubai at 12.30pm yesterday was delayed because of Sharjah flight, the Air India Express official said.
Passengers of both the flights who remained stranded at the airports until late last night complained that the airline officials had failed to provide them with decent accommodation.
“Besides, the airline staff at the airport failed to give us a clear picture on the delay and an exact time of its departure,” said Rashid Ali, a passenger.
Another passenger Moosa Mohammed said, “Since Tuesday night all of us are waiting at the airport. I could not go out from the airport as my visit visa has expired. It is very difficult to wait for a single day at the airport.”
Both flights were expected to depart late yesterday night.
Grace period given to illegals
DUBAI - JUL 12: A one-month grace period will be given to amnesty-seekers who have obtained travel clearance but are unable to book a flight. They will now have until the end of September to return to their home countries, said Brigadier Mohammad Al Merri, Director-General of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD).
The concession will apply to illegal residents who have completed all the amnesty formalities but are unable to arrange air travel in time because of a shortage of seats.
Al Merri stressed all necessary paperwork had to be finalised and clearance to leave the country obtained by August 31, when the amnesty period ends. And he warned strict action would be taken against those who remained in the UAE illegally.
“We advise everybody to utilise the amnesty to leave,” said Al Merri. “Life bans will be imposed on those who have entered the country illegally or have criminal records.
“And companies will be fined Dh50,000 if an illegal worker is caught.” Al Merri was speaking as he visited the Indian High School in Dubai to inspect the distribution of passports received from the UAE emigration authorities.
He said 27,000 illegal residents had already been cleared to travel by the authorities in Dubai.
Hundreds wait outside the DNRD’s Follow-up and Investigation Section in Jumeirah every day.
Al Merri said despite clear instructions to come in groups, many gathered at the same time in the blazing sun.
“We have clearly told them to come in batches,” he said. “Some can come in the morning while others can come after 5pm. Instead everybody gathers at 9am, creating a lot of confusion.” More than 55 officers work until midnight to ensure documents are cleared in time.
For those applying during the normal working hours between 8am and 5pm, the department has allocated certain days for different nationalities. This has been done in an effort to reduce the crowds.
Sundays and Mondays are designated for amnesty-seekers from India, while Tuesdays have been allocated for nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Those from Bangladesh, Russia and other Eastern European countries plus Arab and African nations should visit the department on Wednesdays, while Thursdays are for women only.
‘Unidentified’ dead man was amnesty-seeker
DUBAI — JUL 12: He dreamt to return home using the opportunity of amnesty after two years of toil as an illegal worker in the UAE. But fate had something else in store for 40-year-old Asokan, who hailed from the south Indian state of Kerala. His dead body was found in Satwa by Dubai Police 10 days ago and was lying in police morgue as ‘unidentified’.
However, relatives identified Asokan’s body yesterday after his picture was published in local newspapers, where the police appealed to the public to help identify the man.
According to Bhaskaran, a relative, who identified Asokan’s body in police morgue, the latter had gone missing 20 days ago.
“We were searching for him all these days. I saw his picture in the newspaper and went to police morgue. It was him. His relatives back home have been informed about the tragedy,” said Bhaskaran, adding that the reason behind his death was still not known as the police report is not yet ready.
“He was very happy when the amnesty was announced. He was trying to secure an outpass. He was very desperate to return home as he was struggling here as an illegal worker,” Bhaskaran said.
Asokan had been working in Dubai for the past two years. “He came on a visit visa scouting for a job. The agent took his passport and disappeared. So he could not return home,” claimed Bhaskaran.
Asokan’s body, Bhaskaran said, will be repatriated after the legal procedures are completed. “We are going to the Indian Consulate to explore the chance to get an outpass to repatriate his body,” he added.
Asokan leaves behind his widow and two children.
Abu Dhabi taxi owners rush to submit papers
ABU DHABI - JUL 12: The Taxi and Hire Car Regulation Centre has received submissions from 75 per cent of licensed taxi owners across the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Taxi owners are requested to submit documents before Sunday to qualify for the new compensation scheme “We’re pleased with the positive licence owner response, which paves the way for better regulation and improved services in the taxi sector,” says Khaled Saleh Al Rashedi, general manager, Taxi and Hire Car Regulation Centre.
“We are working hard to make sure that the remaining 25 per cent of taxi owners understand the need to submit proof of ownership before Sunday. Owners can submit documents at select branches of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) over the next three working days.
“The Taxi and Hire Car Regulation Centre is using SMS alerts, flyers, radio and press announcements to ensure that the message is delivered effectively to all taxi owners. As we boost our efforts to put a better taxi system in place, we encourage remaining licence owners to act fast and beat the Sunday deadline,” said Al Rashedi.
After receiving the documents for compensation, the centre will phase out all the current taxis and replace them with modern fleets of 7,000 vehicles operated by private companies. More than 8,000 taxis operate in Abu Dhabi, including Al Ain and other parts of the Western Region of the emirate.
The centre warned that those owners failing to register before the deadline will not benefit from the scheme, under which each owner will receive a monthly compensation of Dh1,000 for surrendering their licences to the centre. The licences will be used by the private compa nies to operate their fleets of new taxis.
As mandated by Law number 19 of 2006, Abu Dhabi’s Taxi and Hire Car Regulation Centre is working on its plan to build the new taxi system in the UAE capital.
Owners of licensed taxis in Abu Dhabi are requested to submit proof of ownership by July 15.
“This process allows us as a regulator to manage and monitor the new taxi scheme efficiently and ensure a smooth transition from the existing structure to the new state-of-the-art system,” Al Rashedi said.
He also advised taxi owners to call the centre’s hotline 600 560006 for more information on the issue.
Suspicious bag forces Etihad flight diversion
ABU DHABI — JUL 12: Etihad Airways flight EY-471 from Jakarta to Abu Dhabi was diverted to Colombo briefly for a security check, after a suspicious baggage was found on board the aircraft.
According to the airline’s spokesman, Thomas Clarke, the flight resumed its journey to Abu Dhabi after security officials at Colombo airport carried out comprehensive checks and gave security clearance.
The flight carrying 262 passengers was scheduled to arrive in Abu Dhabi at 2320 hours local time last night.
Jailed on liquor charge
FUJAIRAH — JUL 12: The Fujairah Appellate Court has upheld the verdict of the Court of First Instance and sentenced an Indian to a month in jail on the charge of possessing and dealing in alcoholic drinks. The court also ordered him to pay Dh500 fine for consuming liquor in public place.
Acting on a tip-off, Fujairah Police had arrested 35-year-old G.S and seized 16 bottles of whisky and nine cans of beer. The accused claimed that the alcoholic drinks were for his personal use.
Tourism destination taking shape off capital’s coastline
ABU DHABI — JUL 12: A unique exhibition showcasing the Desert Islands — the multi-experience tourism destination taking shape off Abu Dhabi’s western coastline — is currently under way at the Emirates Palace Hotel.
The Desert Islands will consist of eight islands, including the Sir Bani Yas eco-resort, the former environmental showcase of late Shaikh Zayed, and an onshore gate.
The exhibition focuses on the significant career opportunities the destination is expected to generate for Emiratis. It features the destination’s master plan, inspirational images and project models.
“We expect the destination to create around 6,500 job openings by the time it is fully operational in 2017 – a forecast which falls totally in line with our economic diversification mandate from the Abu Dhabi government and the directions of both President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces,” said Shaikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which manages ADTA’s tourism assets.
“The career opportunities will cover a range of disciplines including marine conservation, renewable energy research, destination management and eco-preservation,” he pointed out. “We hope young Emiratis will seize the opportunity of studying the project thoroughly while residents and visitors get a glimpse of our future standing on the international tourism scene,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director-General of ADTA and Managing Director of TDIC.
TDIC anticipates the destination will attract around 250,000 visitors when the first phase is completed in 2010, rising to over a million a year.
The Desert Islands will provide a multitude of experiences encompassing a nature reserve, a cultural destination and a showcase for world-class environmental, conservation and ecological tourism, including the Arabian National Park .
In addition to the former royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island, it will also comprise Dalma Island and the Discovery Islands — six nearby offshore outcrops - all of which will be linked by a ferry and hydrofoil service, water taxis and private ‘resort’ boat service.
The Desert Islands exhibition is open to the public from 10am to 10pm daily till the end of August.
Dubai - The night stalker
Dubai - Jul 12: An 18-year-old knifeman broke into a stranger’s house in the middle of the night and clambered into bed with a sleeping woman while her husband was away from home, a court was told. The defendant, a UAE national, broke into the home in the Barsha area of Dubai and climbed into bed as the woman slept alone.
She said that she thought it was her husband and quickly fell back asleep. She awoke again a few minutes later to find the stranger in her bed holding a knife to her stomach, she told the court. The terrified victim gave him some money before he fled out of the front door. In a separate case against the defendant, heard before the same court, the defendant is alleged to have broken into the home of a Saudi woman wearing a mask, again carrying a knife.
The 27-year-old victim told police that the man tried to rape her twice, once in the bathroom and once in the bedroom, but both times he was unable to. After failing to rape his Saudi Arabian victim, he attacked her with the knife injuring her legs and hands. He then fled the scene.
The woman identified her attacker to police after being shown several photographs of possible suspects and the man was arrested at his home the following day. Yesterday he told judges at the Court of First Instance that when he entered the first home he was drunk and thought it was his own house.
“I didn’t do anything to her, please bring her here to confess. If I did this then hang me,” the defendant told the hearing yesterday.
The trial was adjourned until later this month to hear from more witnesses.
Dubai - Hunger pangs quelled
Dubai - Jul 12: Fizzy drinks and sandwiches were the order of the day for the 200-plus Sri Lankan and Indian workers still stranded in Dubai while they await payment from their former employer. Touched by the plight of the men and women still waiting for salaries to be paid after the garment factory they were working in closed last month, Dubai-based drink manufacturer, Jeffrey International Group, sent staff armed with food and drink to the Jumeirah villa housing at least 140 women.
And they intend to return every day with supplies needed by the workers, who hope to be paid by Sunday. A spokesperson for Jeffrey International said the company donates ten per cent of its annual profit to charity and the chairman had been touched by the plight of these unfortunate workers.
Diversion at Baniyas interchange
DUBAI — JUL 12: From Friday, traffic at the Baniyas interchange in Dubai will be diverted in order to make way for construction works on Dubai Metro’s Green Line, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced yesterday.
The diversion is expected to continue until December 2009.
Engineer Hussain Al Banna, Director of Right of Way Services Department of Traffic and Roads Agency, stated that road users in the Baniyas area driving northwards would now be required to turn left to Al Burj Road, followed by a left turn towards Al Musalla Road.
Also, motorists heading southwards would be required to turn right to Al Burj Road, then left behind Baniyas Square and once again to the left towards Al Maktoum Road.