NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Many companies holding back passports of ‘illegals’
DUBAI — Jul 18:Despite the Ministry of Labour’s (MoL) warning, several companies are allegedly withholding the passports of amnesty-seekers, it was learnt.
Humeid bin Demas, assistant under-secretary at the MoL, had recently warned that any company refusing to hand over passports to its illegal workers who wished to avail themselves of the amnesty, would face stringent fines and sanctions.
“We have got complaints against companies that are refusing to release illegal workers’ passports. In such cases, the MoL will call the sponsors and try to persuade them to give back the labourers’ passports so that the latter could regularise their status or leave the country. If the sponsor does not return the passport to its holder, the company will be fined Dh10,000 and would be shut down for six months,” he had said.
However, the Indian Consulate officials in Dubai yesterday said they had received a number of complaints from workers that their sponsors were demanding money from them in lieu of returning their passports.
An official statement issued by the Indian Consulate said: “The Consulate General of India has received a number of complaints from Indian nationals seeking amnesty that employers were refusing to return back passports.
“The Consulate would like to reiterate that all Indian passports are the property of the Government of India and should be under the custody of the holder or under the custody of the agencies of the Indian Government. The Consulate would like to appeal to all employers holding Indian passports to return the same to their employees or to the Consulate immediately,” the statement added.
Saravan Kumar, a worker said: “The company I was working for previously is holding back my passport and they are demanding that I pay all the money paid by the company towards my visa charges.”
He added: “If only I had the passport, I could go to the immigration office directly without applying for outpass.”
Meanwhile, a company owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “I paid big money as bank guarantee and visa charges. Two of my workers absconded within three months of their recruitment. Now, they will use this amnesty to get away from here. How can I compensate my loss?” he asked.
Crackdown on illegal taxis
DUBAI — JUL 18: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched a campaign to crack down on those operating illegal pick-up vehicles in the emirate.
Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, CEO of the Public Transport Agency (PTA), said the RTA had decided to take a number of measures to curb this illegal practice, including seizure of the vehicles as well as slapping the violators with heavy fines.
The RTA had also decided to form a committee to look into the matter.
The panel will be headed by the Planning and Business Development Department at the PTA, a part of RTA.
The RTA, it may be noted, had spotted nearly 15,000 such violations in 2006. Asian expatriates comprised over 88 per cent of the violators. The pick-up violators also included some women.
The most active areas for illegal pick-up operators are Baniyas Square, Gold Souq, Naif Street, Salahuddin Road, Al Mulla Plaza, Al Hamriya area, Hor Al Anz, Al Qusais, Dubai International Airport (Terminals 1,2), Al Satwa area, Al Jumeira Road, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street, Al Ghubaiba and the Al Qouz Industrial area.
Al Mulla said that Pakistanis topped the list of violators, followed by Indians, Egyptians, Afghanis and Iranians. The official conceded that this practice adversely impacted the RTA with regard to revenues.
Surviving to see her children
DUBAI — JUL 18: She is the victim of an unscrupulous agent and was nearly driven into a flesh trade racket. Thangamani, 39, now longs to fly back to India as early as possible, where her children are waiting for her with bated breath.
Extreme financial crisis after her husband’s death forced Thangamani to come to Dubai and work as a housemaid. When she left home some six years ago she never imagined a day would come when she would have no clue on how to get back to her son and daughter, aged 17 and 14 years respectively.
“I am tired of running from pillar to post and listening to different opinions. I am very scared. I don’t trust anyone any more,” she told Khaleej Times. She had paid Dh3,000 to an agent in her home town Calicut who promised her an employment visa for two years as a housemaid. On landing in Dubai, Thangamani was petrified when she was brought to a room where there were three other women who were going to be introduced into the flesh trade racket. She was rescued from there by an Indian.
“I work as a part-time maid now. However, when I go out I often get harassed by people who pass snide remarks at me. Even women pass comments. So I have started wearing abaya in spite of being a Hindu,” she said.
Thangamani does not have her passport with her. At one point she was even asked to pay money to the agent in lieu of her passport. After a lot of effort, she has managed to get her outpass. However, she still feels nervous. “I have a language problem and cannot follow what the officials say,” she said.
Filled with extreme emotion and desperation, Thangamani explained that the only reason she had survived through all this torment is because she wanted to see her children, who have been deprived of her love and attention.
She has her air ticket ready and cannot wait to fly back home.
Would she like to come back? “Yes!” she said. “My children are my life. I want to work to ensure a better future for them.”
But this time around, she said, she would be more careful and make sure she was not coaxed into a false job by an unscrupulous agent.
60,000 abscond each year
ABU DHABI — JUL 18: The labour market in the UAE creates about 60,000 absconders every year, according to Assistant Undersecretary in the Ministry of Labour (MoL) Humaid bin Deemas.
Colonel Nassir Al Awadi Al Menhali, Director of Abu Dhabi Naturalisation and Residency Department, said that 3,007 illegal workers had left the capital during the amnesty so far and 1,864 had obtained exit permit. So far, 3,110 illegals have reguralised their status since the announcment of amnesty.
According to Deemas, about 60,000 illegals had got their visas cancelled until July 15 this year. “The amnesty period will not be extended, but workers who have completed the cancellation procedures can leave even after the amnesty ends on September 2, if they do not get airline bookings before September 2,” he added.
“The MoL collected Dh420 million in fines imposed during the last 18 months on companies for expired labour cards and other violations of labour laws,” he said.
Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, Assistant Undersecretary in the MoL, said, “The workers’ response to the amnesty is very poor as most of them prefer to come to the concerned authorities in the last days. There are more than 300,000 labourers staying in the country illegally.”
TRA warns du over missing deadline
ABU DHABI — JUL 18: The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has warned telecom operator du for missing the July 12 deadline of providing national and international call services from fixed lines.
du, while blaming Etisalat for allowing limited testing facilities, said it is still awaiting rectification of identified defects and confirmation to open lines to enable this application nationwide. The assertive telecom watchdog TRA in a statement yesterday showed its commitment to ensure the best services for the telecom subscribers in the UAE to safeguard competition, transparency in the business.
It urged the two UAE telecom operators to adhere to the regulations, policies and standards put by the TRA. A written warning was issued by the TRA to du on Sunday for failing to meet its licence obligations to providing national and international call services from homes and offices in the UAE, by dates specified in the licence.
The TRA also approved to postpone the deadlines for du, but only after issuing the warning, to insist on the seriousness of violating deadline obligations that affects negatively the spirit of competition in the UAE telecom sector and the choice of the customers with respect to the telecom services.
Mohamed Al Ghanim, TRA Director-General, said, “We expect du to meet the new deadlines set, where we will reveal the concerning dates in due time, when competition for national and international call services are expected in UAE homes and offices.”
Osman Sultan, CEO of du, said: “The telecom operator was committed to transparency in all matters. It said that the capability of choosing any operator while making national and international calls from fixed lines in homes or offices, is something that is very important to du. In this respect, the TRA provided the regulatory framework for the capability (Carrier Select) to happen. ”
“However,” he continued, “the implementation of such capability requires operational and technical steps to take place between the two operators.”
“Sharing recent developments in this regard,” du CEO said, “the due date for launching du’s Carrier Select was set to be July 12 and du was given a limited testing environment by Etisalat on July 2. A list of issues were identified on July 8 and communicated to Etisalat and du required the capability to be available in preparation for its nationwide launch. The telecom operator on a regular basis updated the telecom regulator on the developing situation.”
“The situation today is that du is waiting for Etisalat to confirm the rectification of identified defects and confirmation to open lines to enable this application nationwide to allow du to launch,” Osman said.
“The TRA has issued on June 15 a Violation Decision because the deadline of July 12 has expired,” he said. “du respects this decision and it will launch this capability after completing extensive testing and when fully satisfied with the quality offered to its customers through the capability, in a few weeks time.”
Etisalat, commenting on the issue, said it cooperated and honoured du’s requests for testing.
At the current stage of testing, du has not specifically identified any defects that are solely attributable to Etisalat, and that would require Etisalat to unilaterally issue a confirmation of rectification. Line opening is not an issue currently, and could not have caused the delays, as the testing needs to be completed first.
Taking up summer jobs to boost family income
DUBAI — JUL 18: Gone is the trend of going on an overseas vacation during summers or even taking a break from school and relaxing indoors, away from the heat and humidity. The ever-increasing cost of living has begun to take its toll on the youth in Dubai.
More and more youngsters from Dubai’s middle-class expatriate families are taking up various occupations to help support their families or to earn some ‘pocket money’ without being a strain on the family budget.
With the recent announcement by the authorities allowing students to take up jobs while pursuing their education in the UAE, teenagers can easily find jobs in Dubai’s booming economy as many firms are willing to hire temporary labour, either to cope with the significant increase in demand during the summer or to make up for employees who have gone on a vacation.
Hamad Alhemairi, human resource officer at Emirates Bank said, “We hire students and give them responsibility and authority to see how they cope with it and train them to deal with real jobs.” Emirates Bank has given more than 15 students office-related jobs as of July 1.
“It is a good thing, whether it is needed or not financially, that students take up jobs during summer. It will keep them off the streets and teach them responsibility so that they can begin to look at themselves as being independent, develop an identity as well as formulate emotional stability by giving them a purpose, of participating in the family funding,” said Dr Raymond H. Hamden, clinical and forensic psychologist at the Human Relations Institute Dubai.
“It will also help them to learn flexibility, adaptability and respectability for community and give them the confidence of being able to make money,” he added.
“Having a summer job is an excellent way of preparing for the future,” says 16-year-old Ben Aneesh, a student at the International School of Choueifat Dubai, who has taken up a full-time summer job at ICICI Bank. “And it is better than sitting at home doing nothing,” he added.
Money is not the only driving force behind Dubai’s job-seeking youth. The experience is great and looks good on their profile. Working can also present an active, enjoyable and profitable way to pass the time. Additionally, community service goes a long way for those seeking acceptance to universities in United Kingdom and the United States.
The chemical company BASF, too, has given a few summer jobs to students this year. “We aim to help the students to bridge the gap between the theory learnt at school and the practical aspects of working,” said Allwyn Santhumayor, operations manager at BASF.
Man gets buried up to his neck in sand
DUBAI - JUL 18: A man has been rescued after becoming buried up to his neck in sand, while working in a hole in the ground. The Asian was at a villa in Al Khawaneej, Dubai, when piles of sand collapsed into the hole, injuring him.
Mechanical equipment was used to free him by members of a Dubai Police Special Tasks and Land Rescue Team. The rescue operation lasted an hour and a half.
The team was led by Lieutenant Abdullah Al Rahoumi, who said the digging works the man had been carrying out, while in the hole were dangerous.
“The worker did not take proper safety precautions,” he added. “As the soil was not stable the sand surrounding the hole collapsed, all of his body was buried in it with the exception of his head.” Al Rahoumi said the fact the alarm was raised quickly had helped his team carry out the rescue successfully.
Dubai - Expensive crossing
Dubai - Jul 18: A Dubai driver and self-confessed Salik enthusiast was left fuming yesterday after a routine trip over Garhoud Bridge left him dhs150 out of pocket.
Lebanese expat Jihad, who has lived in Dubai for more than 15 years, had recently charged his Salik account with dhs100 and when he made his way over Garhoud Bridge still had dhs88 remaining on his account. But as he made his way to his home in Garhoud he received another Salik text message saying his account was now minus dhs58.
He said: “I think it’s a great system - I save so much on fuel I once wasted in traffic. But I may change my mind if it will cost me dhs150 just to cross the bridge.” The RTA confirmed there have been a few teething problems with the new system - something they say has been mainly caused by people providing incorrect mobile phone numbers to Salik.
Life term for selling and possessing drugs
Dubai - Jul 18: A man was yesterday jailed for life for possessing and peddling marijuana.
ES, 36, a visitor from Nigeria, arranged to sell 5.89 grammes of the drug.
Prosecutors had called for a death sentence but the demand was rejected by Dubai Criminal Court. ES confessed to the charges. “This is still a very merciful sentence compared with capital punishment,” said Sharif Emara, a lawyer from the Gailani office in Dubai. “If the man was only possessing drugs he could have received a shorter sentence. But possessing and trading – where you hurt other people – deserve the toughest verdict.
“In Egypt, when people are charged and convicted of drug trading, they are awarded capital punishment by law. It does not matter whether it is marijuana, hashish, ecstasy or heroin.” A woman, RN, also from Nigerian, faced the same charges but was cleared by the criminal court.
According to court records, Al Muraqqabat Police Station had received a tip-off that ES had been selling marijuana. He was said to have made an appointment to supply another man with 5.89gm for Dh300.
A policeman posed as the buyer and waited for ES as officers watched. ES appeared and said they should go to a safer area to close the deal. It was at this point that the undercover policeman revealed his identity and arrested ES, who had a plastic bag containing marijuana.
He said he had obtained the drug from RN. Officers then went to her home and discovered plastic bags similar to the one that ES had – but found no drugs. She said she used the bags for wrapping food.
In a separate case, the court sentenced TM, 27, a visitor from Nigeria, to 10 years in prison for possessing hashish.
He was fined Dh50,000 and will be deported after serving his sentence.