News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Stranded women say only option is to work as maids

Dubai - Dec. 18: Employees of garment factories that have been shut down are being forced to work as part-time domestic helpers in the northern emirates to survive.

The factories are either forced to shut down as a result of them going bankrupt or because the owners decided that they do not want to do business.

Under these circumstances the garment factory workers, who are predominantly Sri Lankan, find themselves unemployed and stranded. Some of these employees stay back to battle it out in the courts for their dues while others opt to return home.


"I along with the rest of the co-workers have filed a case against our employer, who had absconded, with the Ministry of Labour. The company has to pay me five months' salary. I will not leave the country until I get my money," said Damayanti, a Sri Lankan garment factory worker who is currently serving as a part-time domestic help for half a dozen residents in Sharjah.

Damayanti used to earn Dh750 at the garment factory where she worked in Sharjah.

The majority of the garment factory workers are Sri Lankan women who are forced to leave their country as a result of poverty and are the main income earners for their family.

These women who now work as domestic help said that they do not have any other means to support their family back home.

"It is quite back-breaking to work for more than half a dozen homes every day without a break but it is the only way we can sustain ourselves. Many lives back home depend on us," said Pushpa, a former garment factory worker from Sharjah.

These women said that they do not have their passports and fear retribution under the law.

"We learnt that our employer had submitted our passports with the immigration authorities. We are hesitant to approach them," said Nalini who plans to go back to Sri Lanka next year.

"My husband and seven-year-old daughter are back home and they keep asking me to come back but how can I without collecting my dues," she added.

P.D. Fernando, the Sri Lankan consul general, said the consulate issues passports in less then half an hour provided they get an immigration clearance.

He said: "They will be issued free of cost. If they come across any delay in receiving their passports they should come straight to my office."

Deepa, also a garment factory worker, said: "I had no idea that we could get our passports."

She will approach the authorities next year when she plans to go back home.

"I am building a house there. Construction will get completed only next year."


No insurance umbrella for fourth expat child

ABU DHABI — Dec. 18: Some bad news for employees with more than three children. They will now have to bear the expenses of securing health insurance policy for their newborn babies. The policy will be effective under a second phase of the mandatory insurance premium that will be enforced on January 1, 2007, for all expatriate staff residing and working in the capital.

According to the National Law No. 23 of 2005 on health insurance, it is compulsory for employers to insure an expat employee, his wife and three of his children below 18 years age.

“Abiding by Article Five of the law, the employee has to secure a health insurance for the newborn child from the first day of delivery if he has more than three children in the mentioned age and insured by the employer,” said a senior official at the General Authority for Health Services for the emirate of Abu Dhabi (GAHS).

Under a Presidential Decree, phase one of the insurance project was implemented on July 1 for expatriate employees at government department and ministeries as well as private firms with less than 1,000 staff.

On the mechanism followed to insure infants in this category, the official clarified that parents should subscribe the child in the scheme within 30 days after the date of birth. “In case the employee has only two children below 18 years of age, the employer should insure the baby within 15 days from the date of birth,” the official said.


Report and witnesses can nail driver for speeding

Dubai - Dec. 18: A technical report and witness accounts will help decide whether the Pakistani driver who caused nine deaths and 56 injuries in Thursday's bus collision was speeding, Gulf News has learnt.

Dubai Police referred 25-year-old suspect, identified as H.R.M., to the Traffic Public Prosecution that started questioning him yesterday.

"We started questioning the suspect yesterday and we have a list of 25 witnesses, who were on the bus at the time of the collision, to be questioned as well. We are also waiting for the accident's technical report, which is considered essential to decide on the charges," Salah Bou Farrousha, Head of Traffic Public Prosecution, told Gulf News yesterday.

The accident occurred last Thursday near the Mall of the Emirates on Shaikh Zayed Road where nine people died and 56 injured when a bus carrying dozens of workers collided with a mini bus and overturned on the busy road.

According to public prosecution records, the suspect has been primarily charged with causing accidental and unintentional death of victims and damaging public and private properties. There has been no mention of reckless driving yet. The same records identified two of the victims as 34-year-old Indian, B.R., and Pakistani, B.M., of the same age.

A week of questioning

"We haven't received the technical report yet, and we might need the week in full to question the witnesses," Bou Farrousha said.

According to police, the driver of the bus lost control, skidded across the wet road into the opposite lane and overturned.

A minibus carrying a group of workers crashed into the bus and its driver was killed on the spot. The bigger bus was travelling from Jebel Ali.


Jail term for hypermarket 'pervert' reduced

Dubai - Dec. 18: A court has reduced the jail term against a Briton who was found guilty of secretly breaching the privacy of women at a hypermarket.

The Dubai Court of Appeal reduced the jail punishment to three months from six months, against the 34-year-old British general manager, identified as P.S., and confirmed that he will be deported after serving his term.

The court also ordered confiscation of the camera which used to be attached to a trolley.

The Dubai Court of First Instance had earlier sentenced the defendant to six months in jail after he was found guilty of breaching the privacy of a number of women by using a digital video-camcorder to film them under their skirts, as charged by the Public Prosecution.

The accused had appealed the initial verdict seeking clemency from the court.

Indian church to get cathedral status

Dubai - Dec 18: The St Thomas Orthodox Great Church of Dubai will soon be elevated to the position of Cathedral by the Supreme Head of the Church, Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I, Catholicose of the East and Malankara Metro-politan.

The church is built on a plot of land donated to the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1972 by the then ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The Supreme Head of the ancient indigenous church of India will come to Dubai on his apostolic visit to be the chief celebrant of the consecration service.

The Feast of Martyrdom of the Patron Saint will be celebrated on the same day. The Catholicose will declare the elevation of the church on December 22.

The church has around 10,000 families in its congregation.

An array of activities will be featured to mark the event. A hundred and twenty-five members who have completed 25 years of continuous membership will be honoured and will be presented 'Ponnada' (Shawls of Honour) and mementos.


A reception is planned for the Supreme Head by the congregation. The Catholicose and visiting Metropolitans from India will be given a warm welcome at the church gate and will be taken in a procession to the stage on Friday evening.

Traditional Keralite music Chendavadyam will be played and various tableaux by different spiritual organisations will be displayed.

The public meeting will be inaugurated by Indian Ambassador C.M. Bhandari.

The church, believed to have been founded in Kerala by St Thomas in AD 52, has facilities in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.


City area where the mobile is yet to ring

DUBAI — Dec. 18: Darkness by the side of the lamp. That precisely seems to be the state of affairs for residents at Al Musallah Road in Frij Murar, located right in the heart of the Deira. Residents and shop owners in this area claim they have been waiting for mobile phone coverage in the area since 1994, the year Etisalat was incepted.

However, officials from Etisalat say they are not aware of the problem. “We never received any complaints from the residents. Our engineering department will look into the issue and resolve the problem, if any, as early as possible,” said an official from Etisalat.

According to the residents of this area, mobile phone coverage is not accessible in almost all the buildings and in most parts of the street here. “I have been living in the area for the last 10 years. I never managed to receive or make any mobile calls from the building I am staying in. The coverage is available in only some parts of the street, and even there the signal is very low,” said Ibrahim Thavakkal, a resident of the street.

“Every time I need to make a call I am forced to go out from the street. None of my friends or family can contact me while I am inside my accommodation. This is really inconvenient for me,” he added.

Haroon Soukhat, who is working in a mobile phone selling shop on the street, said, “This has effected our business badly. We are forced to use the landline all the time. It is very inconvenient for us.”

Muhammed, another resident in the area, echoed the same sentiment and said: “We do not have a landline at our place. People cannot contact us even in emergencies.”

“We hope the officials will look into the matter soon,” he added.


All I want for Christmas is a new nose

Dubai: Dec. 18: Forget jewellery or perfume, this Christmas more women are asking their significant others to say ‘I love you’ with cosmetic surgery. As people across the emirate gear up for the party season, for many the preparation, and the present-receiving, started way back in November - with liposuction, nose re-shaping and breast augmentation, the three ops at the top of women’s Christmas lists this year.

Dr Max Sawaf, director of Cosmesurge, on Jumeirah Road, Dubai, said: “Lots of times, patients bargain with their very significant others to have surgery or procedures as Christmas presents because they can be pricey - something that has increased, year on year, as surgery becomes more popular. “They opt for this over jewellery now as many see it as a better long-term investment - people want to look their best, now more than ever.”

November saw the Cosmesurge clinic, part of Emirates Hospital, fully-booked, with people opting to have surgical procedures in plenty of time for any swelling or bruising to go down before the party season kicks off. And when the clinic sees a steep drop in these procedures because of the immediate after effects during December, it then experiences a surge in non-invasive procedures like botox and non-surgical face-lifts.

Dr Max explained: “Particularly popular this year are Thermage - a non-surgical laser face lift, and Flaxel - a laser treatment for large pores. “Flaxel is particularly popular. It’s a half hour laser procedure, under local anaesthetic, to get rid of acne pores and scars. It is particularly effective on local, darker skin, which has suffered from pigmentation problems during this kind of corrective treatment in the past. It costs around dhs2,500 per session and you usually need around four or five sessions.”

Nada, 27, said she would not hesitate to accept an offer of this kind of treatment, or even surgery, as a gift. “I would love plastic surgery,” she said. “I would fix my forehead, have liposuction and get my teeth straightened up. I have told my husband this and he says he would pay if it would make me happy.” Layla, 33, agreed, adding: “I would prefer to pay for it myself, I’d be too embarrassed to ask my partner! But I don’t think it is a bad present to get someone, if it is something they have asked for. It’s obviously not as meaningful or romantic as an item of jewellery, but it would certainly make me feel happier about myself long-term.”

But Amy, 32, was not so confident her partner would be as supportive as Nada’s. “He would be absolutely horrified if I asked for surgery for Christmas!” she laughed. “And he definitely would not agree to pay for it for me, out of principle. He doesn’t even like me wearing fake tan, and the mention of teeth whitening sent him into a flat-spin! He thinks I’m stupid for wanting these things.”

But Amy’s partner may well be one of a fast-decreasing minority. According to Dr Sawaf, while local UAE nationals still make up the bulk of his clients, the number of expat Westerners is fast catching up, with the ratio now standing at 60-40.  Dr Sawaf said: “We have seen a lot of Europeans travelling to Dubai because they get two extra things here - privacy and they save money. Being tax-free means surgery costs half of that in Europe.”

Dr Raymond Hamdan, of the Human Relations Institute at Knowledge Village, says the trend is a worrying one: “Not because cosmetic surgery is bad, but because it is usually being used for the wrong reasons. People are insecure in their looks, they have poor self-image, they don’t feel worthy to compete in the beauty world imposed by the media.  “We do pre-surgery assessments with many state-of-the-art surgeons who want to ensure they are not being unethical.”

Dr Sawaf agrees and says the focus at Cosmesurge is now on tackling the emotional reasons behind the need for surgery here in Dubai. So even if you do get a surgical gift, you’ll have to have some counselling before you accept it. Dr Sawaf, who says one in four requests for surgery are turned down because doctors believe the patient is not psychologically prepared for what they are asking for, said people living in Dubai are more susceptible to stress than many other cities and this can make them turn to surgery.

He explained: “We are seeing a lot of patients coming for surgery because they are dissatisfied with their life. We have concerns about that. The traffic, the increasing rents, people sleep less, they drink more, take more coffee and caffeine and they are also very lonely. It is very stressful and there is a lot of pressure. It’s not easy to make friends here - friendships need nurturing.

“We now address these problems before embarking down any surgical route and we have been pleasantly surprised at how receptive patients have been.” That’s something that Dr Raymond Hamden is glad to hear. “It is not just the individual who needs to be assessed for the predicted outcome of the physical change, but the family also needs an awareness seminar. Many times the husband is left feeling threatened when his wife becomes more beautiful because he has to compete with other men looking at her,” he said, adding, “A gift for Christmas should be enabling the person to have self esteem and ensuring they have a true sense of love and belonging. That is the true meaning of a Christmas gift.”



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