News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Hiring illegals to cost dearly after amnesty

ABU DHABI — AUG 01: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) will take stern action against expatriate business partners and employers if they recruit or shelter illegals after the amnesty ends, according to Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, assistant under-secretary in the MoL.

Al Zahmi said the penalties would include Dh100,000 fine, two months in jail followed by deportation and a permanent ban on re-entry into the country.

If the Emirati sponsor is a partner in business with an expatriate who violates the residency rule, will also face punishments for abetting the violation. However, in case the sponsor is just a company’s licence-holder, he will not be held responsible for the violation.

The MoL, however, has not decided about the fines to be imposed on illegal workers after the amnesty ends. All ‘illegals’ caught after the amnesty period will be referred to the police for necessary action.

“I expect that the number of amnesty-seekers who approach the  MoL for carrying out the formalities of cancellation of labour cards or regularisation of status would treble during the last month of the amnesty period,” Al Zahmi felt.

Meanwhile, a source in the MoL affirmed that the ‘absconding’ reports filed against labourers who had left the country are not proper and it will be considered an illegal act on the part of the sponsors because the absconders are already out of the country.


New HIV test norm soon for job seekers

ABU DHABI — AUG 01: Soon, expatriates coming to the UAE for employment purposes will have to furnish HIV/Aids-free certificates to enter the country, a top health official has revealed. Dr Ali bin Shukur, under-secretary of the Ministry of Health told Khaleej Times that the Health, Labour and other federal ministries were mulling a new policy under which it would be made mandatory for expatriates seeking jobs to produce certificates from their home countries attesting they were free of HIV/Aids.

“We are planning a law in cooperation with other federal ministries, including the Ministry of Labour,” affirmed Dr Shukur. The official was responding to a query about the new measures the government was mulling to ensure that the expatriate labour force was free of disease.

“This measure will be part of a comprehensive project to be implemented in coordination with governments of several countries exporting labour force to the UAE,” Dr Shukur added.

The certificate, he said, will be an initial document to enter the country. Once the expatriates arrive, they will again be screened for HIV/Aids for issuance of employment visa. “In some developing countries, the diagnosis and screening systems might not be up to the mark, and the results may be unreliable. That’s why double-checking is vital,” he said.

Another reason for repeating the tests, he said, was the possibility of forging of medical documents by unscrupulous recruitment agencies.  It may be noted that last year, 750 expatriates out of the 1.5 million screened for HIV/Aids for issuance of employment visas, were found carrying the virus, official records show.


Etisalat offers ‘More’ reward to customers

ABU DHABI — AUG 01: Etisalat has unveiled the name of its reward scheme, ‘More’. Etisalat is preparing for the roll-out of ‘More’ and customers will earn reward points by using Etisalat mobile services and products.

Agreements with a wide range of partners are being finalised for customers to earn as well as redeem reward points. These include brands and companies in the airline, hospitality, retail, lifestyle enhancers, and many other sectors. Khalifa Al Shamsi, Vice President Marketing, Etisalat, said: “Devising a programme to reward our large customer base is no mean feat, and we are committed to ensuring that we deliver a smooth experience right from the start. ‘More’ from Etisalat will ensure that customers experience immense value-addition in their relationship with Etisalat.”


Tricked, exploited... he is desperate to return home

DUBAI — AUG 01: The man has got five children, old parents and two sisters back home. When 40-year-old Dharmendra Paswan came to Dubai last year to earn a livelihood, the dreams were high: a big house with a garden, quality education for his children and qualified grooms for the sisters.

Today, standing in the scorching heat, his body soaked in sweat, Paswan is desperate to go home.

Paswan hails from a remote village in the Indian state of Haryana. “I came here in September last year to work as a mason at a salary of Dh600 per month. I had decided to work hard for at least seven years and to save money for my family. But the dream has not been fulfilled and I am going back. I have been tricked, exploited and fooled,” he said.

According to him, the company in which he worked has still to pay him salary for three months. “I had given Rs.150,000 to the agent in order to come to UAE. I was not given any money for the first two months. The company said that they were cutting the money for the medical and other formalities. Then again my salary was stopped on May.”

“I ran from pillar to post for a month without an answer. After this I stopped going to work. Now when I go to ask them for my passport, they are demanding Dh3000. From where do I pay such a hefty sum? I have just been able to pay up Rs.50,000, the debt which I had taken in order to pay the agent. The agent too talks as if he does not know me. I have such a big family back home. My two sisters are yet to get married. What will I do now? For many days I have been trying to meet the senior consulate officials. I want my passport back. This is not justice,” he lamented.

Paswan said that people, mostly those coming from humble backgrounds should think twice before leaving their homes. “The people from whom I took the debt would make my life miserable when I get back to India. They have started troubling my family. My children and wife, my parents and sisters are in grave danger back there. I have got no choice but to return. People should think twice before dreaming big of earning money in a foreign land. Everyone tends to exploit the poor and the wretched,” he said.


Rent panel’s nod must to evacuate tenants

ABU DHABI — AUG 01: Approval of the Abu Dhabi Rents Settlement Dispute Committee (ADRSDC) is a must to evacuate tenants from buildings authorised for demolition by the Municipality, a senior official has clarified.

Ibrahim Ferihat, general secretary of ADRSDC, told Khaleej Times that neither the landlords nor those managing the buildings, were authorised to evacuate the tenants. “This decision can be taken only by ADRSDC,” he said.

The official pointed that the new tenancy law grants such authority to the committee alone in order to preserve the credibility and legality of the evacuation procedure.


Sharjah gets tough with bachelors living in city

Hundreds of homes have been left without water and electricity after Sharjah Municipality cut services to evict labourers.  An official said utilities to more than 200 villas and 10 apartment blocks have been disconnected because the properties were occupied by construction workers. “The people living there were served notices to move out but they did not leave,” said the official. “So we were forced to disconnect water and electricity.” She warned the next step would be forceful eviction.

The initiative is in line with a campaign to evict bachelors and labourers from residential areas and move them to industrial zones. The municipality wants to move them from the city as they are alleged to be a nuisance to families.

The official said many companies and individuals were still flouting regulations, and warned they would all be brought to account.

Balan Chandramohan, an Indian worker living in one of the villas where electricity was disconnected, said the workers were suffering because of their company’s actions.

“There are 30 of us living in this villa in Al Musallah and the accommodation is provided by our company,” he said. “The authorities disconnected electricity last week and we are forced to live without air-conditioners.” But companies said Al Saja’a industrial area, earmarked for labour accommodation, is not big enough to accommodate all the workers in Sharjah. Many, therefore, had to be placed in other areas.

The manager of one labour supply firm said: “There are thousands of workers living in the city. Even if we would like to shift them, there is not enough capacity in Al Saja’a. The authorities have to provide sufficient infrastructure.”


Dubai - Outrage at deadly fire

Dubai - Aug 01: The residents of a Bur Dubai building that caught fire late on Monday night have lashed out at the company in charge of the block after the fire alarm did not activate and warn them of the blaze.

An apartment on the seventh floor of the Blue Glass Building, on Rolla Street, in Bur Dubai was gutted and several others severely damaged in the fire, which killed one woman, injured five other residents and caused many others to flee for their lives. Civil Defence officials told 7DAYS that the fire alarm did not go off because it was broken. “Fire experts from Dubai Police and Civil Defence are investigating the cause of the fire. We have recorded that the alarms did not go off at all,” a Civil Defence official said.  However, Al Shawab Real Estate, the company that manages the building, denied there were any problems with the safety systems.

“As per our knowledge there is no problem with the fire alarms. We have not heard anything from the Civil Defence yet,” a company spokesman said. Shellshocked residents showed their anger after learning of the alarm fault yesterday.

“My children and the maid were alone at home when the maid smelt some smoke from the corridor. She was shocked to see that the stairs were already full of smoke and the flames were growing fast. She picked up the two children in her arms and rushed out of the house. I don't even want to think what might have happened if she hadn't acted so quickly,” said one resident.

Residents said they only became aware of the fire when they heard a woman banging on the door and screaming for help, with one rescuer claiming she had been locked in her apartment, so had no way of getting out. “I was returning from work when I heard the banging. I rushed to the door and soon realised that the apartment was on fire. I immediately informed the security and asked him to evacuate the building,” he said. “I had to break down the door to get them out. The two girls were definitely locked inside the room.”

He added that by the time he was able to break into the flat, one woman was in such a bad way that she had to be carried out, while rescuers could not find the second occupant due to the thick smoke and intense flames that beat them back.

“She had almost choked from the smoke. We quickly took her to a neighbouring room but the second girl was missing,” he said. When Dubai Civil Defence reached the scene, the fire had already spread to the apartment next door. And although they found the missing woman, who was described as South Asian, and got her to an ambulance, she died from smoke inhalation later that night.


Dubai - Escapee grounded

Dubai - Aug 01: A Kenyan man who tried to smuggle himself out of the country by hiding in a crate at Dubai Airport was given a one-month prison sentence yesterday. The would-be escapologist said he only carried out his daring escape bid when he felt his life had fallen apart.

The authorities had con-fiscated his passport after a previous attempt to leave the country and he had no money. He said he was contemplating suicide, but could only carry out the act in his home country as otherwise his family would be cursed.

“According to our traditions, if I killed myself outside my country then I would be cursed, the curse would be on me and my family and the coming generations.  So I decided to escape in the box and when I reached my country then I would commit suicide,” he told the judge.

The man, who had previously worked for Dnata - the company that looks after cargo and freight at Dubai Airport - said this was the only way he could make sure his family would be safe. “In that way I would prevent my family being cursed,” he said. The man had planned his exit meticulously and kitted himself out with food, water, blankets and a supply of oxygen to help him breath at 33,000 feet.

But he was found when his oxygen supply began to run out after the flight to Eldoret Airport in his home country was delayed and he banged on the side of his crate to get the attention of airport staff. Customs officials were then alerted to the problem and the Kenyan was arrested before  spending a short time in hospital.

An eyewitness said at the time: “There were noises coming from the box and so customs inspectors ordered the box to be opened and found the man tucked up inside. He hadn’t even left the ground.” Customs officials said it was the first time they had dealt with such an incident.


Construction firms to sack staff who work during midday break

Construction companies are threatening to sack employees caught working during the midday break.

Workers are under strict orders to stop working between 12.30pm and 3pm during summer. But health and safety chiefs say some continue after the start of the break or return too early.

The Ministry of Labour is intensifying its crackdown on breaches of the midday break rules – and it is the firms that are fined if violations occur.  Bosses say on most occasions workers continue working for five or ten minutes after 12.30pm, or return a few minutes before 3pm.

M Akbar Khan, Executive Director of Human Resources at ETA Ascon, said his company was fined by ministry inspectors after a group of workers decided to load a truck at 2.45pm.

“Despite having clear instructions not to resume work before 3pm these people wanted to finish early and return home,” he said. “But it was the company that got fined. The worker responsible was immediately terminated.” And representatives of other firms, including Al Ahamadiya, said they would also sack workers who broke the rule.

Ahmed Kajoor, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for planning, said the number of violations had fallen considerably this year compared to 2006.

“Last year about 40 per cent of the 2,100 firms we inspected violated the rules.This year we have already inspected 2,100 companies and the number of violations is down by almost a third.” Bosses of violating companies, when questioned, often said labourers were either just standing at the work site or were unaware of the break timings.

“It’s true that most violations are caught five to ten minutes after the break starts or before it ends,” added Kajoor. “Some workers are still not aware of the timings.”


Liqa set to go home after living in UAE for 18 years
Help has poured in for Liqa Khan after Emirates Today revealed she was unable to return home under the amnesty because she weighed 250 kilograms and could not leave her bed.  Yesterday we told of the plight of the Pakistani mother, 52, who lives in Sharjah.

The Pakistan Association in Dubai immediately came forward to bear the full cost of taking her home.  And many individuals also offered assistance.

Liqa is looked after by her daughter Ruj, 27. Both women’s visas expired 10 years ago and they want to take advantage of the amnesty for illegal residents, which ends on August 31.

“We have contacted Ruj and asked her to bring in a passport copy or any other ID for her mum so we can arrange an out pass,” said Muhammad Khaleeq, Member of the Pakistan Association’s Executive Committee.

He said the association would also make arrangements for her air tickets to Pakistan. “We are not worried about the expense. The priority is to help her – and help her without any reservations.

We want to do whatever little we can to support our community here.” To take Liqa to the airport from her home the family will need an extra-large wheelchair, an ambulance in addition to medical assistance and air tickets to occupy at least two seats.

She suffers from a range of medical problems including breathing difficulties and elephantiasis – a condition that causes tissue in the legs to swell.

Liqa weighed a life-threatening 350kg a year ago. But Rachel Dacruz, a diet counsellor based in the United Kingdom, put her on a low calorie diet that enabled her to lose 100kg.

Ruj said she wanted to take her mother to Pakistan before she passed away as she had not been to the country for 18 years.


Largest rug to fly from Tehran
The world’s largest rug – measuring 5,625 square metres – is about to be airlifted from Tehran to Abu Dhabi and rolled out at the Zayed Grand Mosque.  The Dh31 million handmade carpet will be airlifted in nine pieces by next Monday, depending on the schedules of cargo flights.

“It will be carried in two Russian Illusion planes that will take off from Tehran,” said Dr Jalaluddin Bassam, the Managing Director of Iran Carpet Company, which made the rug.

“It could happen either on Thursday or by Monday, depending on the availability of the planes.

“This is the world’s largest rug. Until now the rug at Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Muscat, Oman, has been the largest in the world. But when assembled and spread out at Zayed Grand Mosque this rug will be 1,000 square metres larger than the one in Muscat. The rug there was also made by the same company.” The new rug, which has 2.2 billion knots, weighs 47 tonnes. The Abu Dhabi Government placed the order in 2005 with the Iranian company, which was set up in 1935 to promote the art of Persian rug weaving. The carpet was unveiled at a ceremony at Tehran’s Mussalla ground yesterday morning.

“The rug was displayed to diplomats, the media, govern ment officials and other VIPs,” added Bassam.

“It is an impressive piece of art put together by 1,200 weavers in Khorasan Province. It is a beautiful car pet with 25 different colours.” A total of 350 technicians, designers, dyers and other workers were also involved.

“It took six months for the design work, six months for drawings, 12 months for weaving and three months for the finishing work. Three months have been allowed for transportation, laying out and putting the final touches to it at the mosque.” The rug was made with 100 per cent natural wool and pure Iranian cotton.

“No silk was used in the rug. Fifty per cent of the wool came from Iran and the rest from New Zealand. We used 25 colours, which included 20 natural dyes and five fast synthetic colours.” The rug was assembled by weavers at three big workshops in three different villages in Nishapur near Meshhad, the capital of the province of Khorasan.

Khorasan, particularly Meshhad and other remote areas, is famous for the production of Meshhadi, Balochi and Torkmen rugs.

The design of the giant rug includes Islamic and traditional Iranian floral art and motifs. “The motifs are good sizes,” said Bassam. “It has five medallions, with the largest having a diametre of 20 metres.” The Zayed Grand Mosque is due to open in September.



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