NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Speed Limits are Slashed
DUBAI - AUG 14: Speed limits on most of Dubai’s roads are being cut from 120km per hour to 100kmph to boost safety. New 100kmph signs have been going up along an extended stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road.
Previously, the 100kmph limit applied from the Trade Centre until Interchange Three, with drivers allowed to accelerate to 120kmph on the remainder of the highway. Now the 100kmph limit will apply until Dubai Marina Interchange.
Sheikh Zayed Road is a dangerous route – last year alone 32 people were killed and 183 injured in 110 accidents there.
The limit on several sections of Al Khail Road – previously set at 120kmph – has been reduced to 100kmph. And restrictions on several smaller roads have been cut from 100kmph to 80kmph.
The moves follow severe warnings from traffic chiefs determined to crack down on speeding.
Figures from Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) reveal one traffic accident is recorded every three minutes in the emirate – with one person killed on the roads on an average every 36 hours. And speeding causes 80 per cent of deaths on the roads.
Around 240 of the 312 people killed last year were involved in accidents directly or indirectly related to speeding.
During the first six months of this year, 135 people died in traffic accidents, with Emirates Road being one of the worst blackspots with 22 fatalities. Crashes on Sheikh Zayed Road killed 20.
Johny Chacko, 52, who travels every day from Bur Dubai to his office near the Country Club in Awir, said speed limits on some of the roads he used had been reduced from 100kmph to 80kmph.
“Many people have still not noticed and continue to drive at the usual speed,” he said.
“Officials have to install cameras in such locations to ensure people follow the new guidelines.” Last month alone speed cameras captured a record 130,254 traffic violations in the city.
The speed limit changes come after an Emirates Today survey revealed a majority of drivers favoured a reduction on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Some 57 per cent of those quizzed said cutting limits on the majority of city roads will drastically reduce the number of accidents.
Khalfan Al Barwani, Director of Traffic Safety at RTA, had said previously that the limit on Sheikh Zayed Road and other routes had to be reviewed.
“Speeding is a problem that is unique in terms of the scale of accidents it is causing,” he said. “Way too many people are breaking speed limits and there is a need for a strict crackdown.”
Indian in hospital asks – who brought me here?
DUBAI — AUG 14: An Indian, apparently in his twenties, has been lying in Rashid Hospital since mid-June, completely clueless about how he reached there. Except for his name and a few hazy details about his past, Posaiya simply can’t recall how he came to the hospital. On being reminded that he is in Dubai, he refuses to believe he ever left India.
“I remember that I had some fall and my mother admitted me to the hospital. She will be coming back any time to take me back home,” he says longingly. He claims to be from a small district in Andhra Pradesh and converses only in Telugu. According to hospital staff, in mid-June police had brought him in an ambulance after he was knocked down by a vehicle, while walking on the road in the Al Qusais area. He had fractures in one of his hands and injuries in the head. “He is slowly recuperating now. However, no one has come to see him so far,” said one of the nurses, who didn’t want to be named.
He has been extremely disoriented from the time he was brought to the hospital and has been unable to give the hospital staff any kind of information about himself, she added.
The Valley of Love (VoL), meanwhile, is trying to trace his family in India with the help of the media. “We are hoping that after seeing his photograph in the newspapers, his friends or relatives might recognise him and help us establish a contact with his family,” said volunteer Joseph Bobby.
Thieves who stole from cars nabbed
DUBAI — AUG 14: Dubai Police have recently nabbed a gang of three men of African nationality who used to steal money from parked cars.
As per their modus operandi, they used to keep tabs on people going to and coming out of banks. If those coming out of banks kept the money in their cars and went somewhere, the gang used to break open the car windows and decamp with the cash or valuables.
On July 18, the operation room of Dubai Police received information about a theft at Century Mall parking. The police rushed to the site and found the windows of the car broken.
One of the eyewitnesses told the police that he had seen a man of African nationality talking on his mobile and walking around the cars. After some time, two other men of African nationality joined him and they all removed the car windows using a screwdriver, he added.
The car owner told the police that he had withdrawn Dh204,000 from a bank in Port Saeed at around 10am after which he went to the commercial centre while leaving the money in his car. After he came back he found his car window broken and the money stolen.
The police launched an investigation and set traps for the gang in various locations in Dubai. Meanwhile, the police managed to identify the plate number of the car used by the gang.
The police soon thereafter arrested one of the gang members from Fareej Al Marar area and recovered Dh64,420 from his pocket.
During his interrogation, the accused confessed to stealing the money in association with two friends.
The police raided a room in a hotel in Al Baraha area where the other gang members were nabbed. While the police recovered Dh27,490 from one of them, the other had Euro5,900, Dh3,122 and $805 with him.
Yet another victim of fraud
ABU DHABI — AUG 14: Mohan Chandra, 28, is yet another Sri Lankan who fell prey to unscrupulous agents.
Chandra was recruited as a tailor in a garment factory in Musaffah, in the capital. “My agent back home promised to pay me Dh700 per month but he paid Dh550, saying that I would earn more than this amount by doing overtime. Though the company forced us to do extra work, it did not pay overtime remuneration. We had to work from 8am to 10pm everyday,” alleges Chandra.
Chandra claimed to have paid the agent back home around 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees in order to get to the UAE.
“They used to pay me only Dh2 for sewing a ‘qandoora’, for which one ought to be paid Dh10. For a skirt-and-blouse set, I was paid only Dh2.50,” said Chandra.
Unable to make both ends meet, he absconded from his sponsor a year ago. He possessed a valid visa but his sponsor refused to return his passport.
“I travelled to various emirates for work, sometimes in Sharjah and sometimes in Dubai and other emirates,” he said..
His visa is expiring by the end of this month and he says he does not want to reside in the UAE as an absconder.
175,000 illegals take advantage
ABU DHABI — AUG 14: Since the announcement of amnesty over two months ago, so far 175,000 illegals have either legalised their status or obtained outpasses all over the country. This was stated here by Director-General of Naturalisation and Residency Brigadier Mohammed Salim Al Khaili.
Brig. Al Khaili said a number of new immigration centres were opened across the country under instructions of Minister of Interior Lt-Gen. Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan to receive application from amnesty-seekers.
He noted that a large number of illegals were flocking to these centres as the amnesty deadline is nearing.
Al Khaili made these remarks during an inspection of one of these centres at Shaham in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
He urged illegals to speed up their transactions to take advantage of the amnesty and obtain outpasses to leave the country.
He said stringent penalties would be imposed on people found employing or harbouring residency rule violators.
MoL rejects ADNRD decision on visit visas for workers
ABU DHABI — AUG 14: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) yesterday rejected an application, initially approved by the Abu Dhabi Naturalisation and Residency Department (ADNRD), to issue visit visas for a group of labourers.
Assistant Under-secretary in the MoL Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi said the ministry had refused to approve an application for a technical support and computer services company, which had sought to bring 75 employees into the country for work, but on visit visas.
The ADNRD approved the company’s application to bring the labourers on visit visas and sent the application to MoL for further formalities regarding bank guarantee and accommodation.
“We rejected the application and we were shocked that it had been approved by ADNRD,” said Al Zahmi.
According to the Labour Law, the employees who work on a visit visa are in violation of the law, hence they cannot even go to the MoL to demand their rights or ask for health insurance.
Al Zahmi pointed out that the companies had the right to issue visit visas only for delegations, to discuss businesses, but not for employment.
Use this free bus to cross the road and stay alive
DUBAI - AUG 14: A free shuttle bus is to be provided on both sides of Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road between the Defence and World Trade Centre roundabouts. Pedestrians will be able to use the service to safely cross from one side of the busy highway to the other.
And traffic chiefs hope the initiative will reduce the number of people hit by vehicles. Last year 14 pedestrians were killed on the stretch of road.
“The bus service will help pedestrians move safely between the two sides of Sheikh Zayed Road, alleviate traffic congestion and cut down on accidents,” said Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, executive director of the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) Public Transport Department. “It is a true translation of RTA’s keenness to offer practical solutions in areas that do not lie on the usual public transport lines.” This section of the road is one of the busiest in the city and is surrounded by residential and office towers. Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre and Dubai InternationalFinancial Centre are also located here.
Al Mulla said pedestrians continued to cross Sheikh Zayed Road despite the presence of a fence intended to deter them – resulting in some being struck by vehicles.
The new service would run every half an hour and the buses would carry a special number and electronic signboard. Two recently-purchased buses would be used.
Al Mulla spoke of a com prehensive plan to develop the services of public buses by using the best and most advanced international practices and techniques.
Badr Mattar Al Sairi, Director of the RTA’s Traffic Department, said the service would encourage public to stop using their own vehicles to cross between the two sides of the road.
He said he hoped the number of accidents involving pedestrians would reduce this year and asked people on foot to be cautious and to cross only at designated places.
“The RTA has put fences in dangerous areas in the light of figures showing pedestrians were involved in 38 per cent of road deaths last year.
“The rate of pedestrian deaths in advanced countries is between 15 and 18 per cent,” he said.
New shelter is the coolest place to be
DUBAI - AUG 14: The number of air-conditioned bus shelters being built in Dubai is to be increased from the 500 originally planned to 815. The announcement by an official at the Roads and Traffic Authority’s Public Bus Department came yesterday as the second of the structures was being assembled on Al Sofouh Road. It is due to be operational today.
The first air-conditioned shelter was installed last autumn opposite the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on Jumeirah Road. Around the city the foundations of several hundred more have already been laid, said the official.The authority is planning to install around 50 shelters per month.
Most will be in the Jumeirah and Al Sofouh areas and the whole project should be completed by July 2008, the source added. The project is part of a comprehensive revamp of the city’s public bus service, which will include the introduction of new routes and more vehicles to carry commuters.
In June the authority added 80 new buses to serve the city’s central business district.
CGI to celebrate I-Day tomorrow
DUBAI - AUG 14: THE Consulate General of India (CGI) will celebrate the 61st Independence Day of India with a flag-hoisting ceremony at the Indian High School, Dubai at 8am on Wednesday.
An official release on Monday said Venu Rajamony, consul-general of India will hoist the Indian national tri-colour and read out extracts from the address by President of India.
People of all nationalities are welcome to attend the event that will also see a slew of cultural events showcasing India.
A similar function will be held at the Indian Association Sharjah where the Indian flag will be hoisted at 8am. Indian expatriates, dignitaries from various walks of life and officials from the Indian consulate will attend.
A cultural programme to mark the day will be held at the association's auditorium from 7pm.
Mission stops accepting new outpass applications
UAE - AUG 14: Indian missions in the UAE yesterday stopped accepting fresh applications for outpasses from amnesty-seekers. The consulate in Dubai had received more than 39,000 applications.
The Pakistani consulate in Dubai will, however, continue to accept applications until the last day of the amnesty (August 31), and has already issued 14,000 outpasses. More than 25,000 expatriates from the country are expected to benefit from the amnesty.
The Indian mission is still holding thousands of passports belonging to illegal workers that were given to it by the UAE immigration authorities.
Only 19,100 of the 40,000 passports have been returned to their owners. Most were recovered from employers after workers absconded.
“More than half of the passports still remain with us,” said Venu Rajamony, India’s Consul-General for Dubai and the Northern Emirates. “It is possible some of those whom these passports belong to could have already left the country with outpasses before the amnesty was announced.
“We will keep the remaining passports hoping people will come forward and collect them before the end of amnesty. But ones that have expired will be destroyed.” Some companies have been demanding money from former employees before returning their passports, consulate sources revealed.
One insider said: “We have received complaints from some amnesty-seekers about companies asking for money to return passports. We have asked these workers to leave a complaint so the consulate can deal directly with the companies.” The Ministry of Labour has ordered companies to return the passports of ille gal workers.
Ahmed Al Besher, legal advisor and supervisor of the ministry’s Amnesty Seekers Section, said warnings had been issued to 47 companies in Abu Dhabi alone that had refused to return passports.
With just 17 days remaining before the amnesty ends, many illegal residents have yet to turn up at the immigration counters.
Almost 350,000 illegal residents are expected to make use of the amnesty. But by the end of last week, Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department had processed only 115,000 applications, including 70,000 for exit passes and 45,000 for regularisation of status.
Although a dramatic increase in the numbers is expected during the remaining days, strict warnings have been issued to illegal residents choosing to stay in the country.
The three-month amnesty, allows all illegal residents to leave the country or adjust their visa status without being fined or imprisoned.
Officials warn the deadline will not be extended and say those opting to overstay will face serious consequences.
Etisalat launches mobile data USB modem for Internet connectivity
ABU DHABI — AUG 14: Etisalat yesterday launched the latest mobile data USB modem, available for the first time in the country. Laptop users on the move now have the option of connecting to the Internet in 97 per cent of the populated areas in the UAE.
The new USB modem and the latest version of the PCMCIA data card both bring speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) in the downstream and 1.9 mbps in the upstream.
Smaller than a standard PC mouse, the USB modem can be used with both laptop and desktop computers, enabling true connectivity for the user. Compatible with all Etisalat SIM cards, this USB modem enables the user with Internet wireless access anytime, anywhere.
Users can also use the SMS facility through this modem.
Customers can purchase the data USB modem for Dh780 from Etisalat Business Centres or from authorised retailers across the country.
Etisalat currently has over 1.3 million customers using its 3.5G mobile data services, and this new modem will enable a large number of users to totally redefine how they access the Internet.
Immigration made easy for illegals
DUBAI — AUG 14: Amnesty-seekers from one emirate can approach the immigration offices in any another emirate to obtain exit passes under the ongoing amnesty programme. This decision has been taken by the federal immigration authorities.
While addressing the media yesterday, Consul-General of India in Dubai Venu Rajamony said that Director-General Mohammed Ahmed Al Khaily has conveyed the decision to the Indian mission.
Until now amnesty-seekers were only allowed to approach immigration offices in the emirate from which their visas had been issued.
Rajamony said more than 20,000 passports which were handed over to the mission by the immigration authorities are still lying unclaimed.
“Out of the 40,000 passports received from the immigration authorities, we distributed 19,100. The centre in Indian High School for issuing outpasses closed officially yesterday but services would be available until August 20 for emergency cases,” he said.
The consul-general said 35,500 outpasses had been issued out of the 40,000 applications received so far.
The Indian government, Rajamony said, has decided to tighten the immigration rules with effect from September 1. “We have received the notification from the government in this regard. But we cannot reveal the details,” he said.