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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Middlemen 'will no longer be able to exploit workers'

Dubai - Nov. 23: A labour agreement to be signed between the UAE and four Asian countries will leave no room for middlemen to exploit labourers, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Countries receiving and sending workers will have a clear understanding of the structures that are in place to ensure that there is no exploitation of labourers, they said, following the initiative taken by the UAE to ensure a security cover for expatriate workers.

On Tuesday, ambassadors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka received the final draft of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) from Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, UAE Minister of Labour.

The MoU which is scheduled to be signed between the four Asian countries and the UAE by the end of this year aims to regulate the entry of foreign workforce. Al Ka'abi is scheduled to visit the four Asian countries at the end of this month.

Diplomatic figures show that there are 1.3 million Indians in the UAE, about 732,000 Pakistanis, 500,000 Bangladeshis and 160,000 Sri Lankans.

"The focus of our dialogue is on labour welfare and providing an effective mechanism for a quick resolution to labour disputes. It will be a single window resolution," said Chandra Mohan Bhandari, Indian ambassador.

Bhandari said the UAE wants to give priority to reputed recruitment agencies. The UAE wants to provide sufficient information in vernacular languages.

He said: "This is to educate workers in advance before coming to the UAE. We received a draft of the MoU yesterday and it has been forwarded to New Delhi."

Ahsan Ullah Khan, Pakistan ambassador and Special Envoy to the Middle East, welcomed the MoU and called it a positive development. He said the MoU will go a long way to providing security and comfort to the expatriate workforce in the UAE.

"In the past, workers were not aware of their obligations and responsibilities. They were exploited ... they were not receiving promised wages. The MoU, once signed, will change all that. It will safeguard the foreign workforce from falling prey to unscrupulous recruitment agents and middlemen."

Nazimullah Chowdary, ambassador of Bangladesh, said the MoU leaves no room for the middleman to manipulate workers.

He said: "Presently many of the workers are not aware of their rights and obligations. But not anymore as under the MoU contracts will be signed in vernacular languages."

Mohammad Nabavi Junaid, Sri Lanka's ambassador, said: "The aim of the MoU is to make workers' lives as well as their living conditions better. I do not think that any other foreign country has taken up such measures for their foreign workforce."


40 classes must for driving test

DUBAI — Nov. 23: In an attempt to make driving licence rules more strict, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has made it mandatory for all students to complete 40 driving classes before qualifying for a test.

As per the new rule, if a student fails a test, he could reappear only after a period of one month and after completing an additional seven classes.

Speaking to Khaleej Times yesterday, Shihab Hammad Bu Shihab, In-charge of the Licensing Department at RTA, said that the new rules would come into effect from January, 2007.

One month grace period has been given to driving schools and notices have already been sent to them, Bu Shihab  said adding that the decision was taken following studies conducted by the RTA and the Traffic Department at Dubai Police to reorganise the training and testing of drivers.

Driving school experts say though they have no objection to extra coaching classes, the rule would put an extra burden on the people.

At present, driving schools are charging different rates. Students now have the option to choose a package with the cost ranging from Dh1,500 to Dh2,500 per package with a minimum 30 and maximum 45 classes. Some students can pay even less if they have an earlier driving experience.

Prospective students, however, did not welcome the tougher testing methods. “I already have a licence from my home country, and I have been driving for over 10 years there and I am sure that I can acquire a licence easily and within a short span of time in Dubai,” said David B. But with this new rule, I have now to spend more money and more time for acquiring a licence, he added.

Yesterday, the RTA announced that it would cancel the licences of small driving schools that do not meet the required standards prescribed by the federal law effective from January 1, 2007.


Couple in court for public kiss in Ramadan

Dubai - Nov. 23: A manager and his girlfriend have landed in trouble after they were seen kissing during Ramadan in a coffee shop by a government employee who reported them to police.

The 37-year-old Austral-ian manager and 35-year-old Filipina receptionist pleaded guilty and told the Dubai Court of First Instance on Wednesday that "they were unaware that kissing in public is punishable by law".

Dubai Public Prosecution had charged the couple with consuming liquor and indecent gestures in public.

The government employee said during Ramadan he saw the suspects kissing in the coffee shop.

He said he warned them against the "unacceptable behaviour, especially in public and during the holy month".

But "they ignored his warning and kissed again", following which he called the police.

The manager said he had received a bonus and asked the receptionist out for dinner at a restaurant where they dined and drank alcohol.

Later, when they went to the coffee shop, he and his girlfriend kissed.


Over 96,000 offences so far this month

Dubai - Nov. 23:  Police have reported more than 96,000 traffic offences since the beginning of this month for an average of 4,000 a day, a senior police official said on Wednesday.

The total number of traffic offences reported from November 1 to November 21 was 96,286. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has ordered police to come down hard on traffic offenders.

Brigadier Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of Dubai Police's Traffic Department, said the traffic control teams and traffic patrols are taking strict procedures against motorists who commit traffic offences.

He said speeding offences caught by radars totalled 51,456 violations.

Meanwhile, a pickup driver will spend six months in jail and pay a Dh10,000 fine after jumping a red signal, hitting a vehicle, injuring the female driver, her two children and the housemaid, the Dubai Traffic Court of First Instance has ruled.

The woman was blinded as a result of the accident.

The pickup driver will be deported after serving his jail term.


Errant driving schools face closure

Dubai - Nov. 23: Licences of small driving schools that do not abide by federal laws and standards will be cancelled starting next year, a senior Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) official said on Tuesday.

Shihab Hamad Bu Shihab, in charge of licensing pro-cesses at the RTA, said the decision will affect about 30 driving schools. There are around 180 schools registered with the Economic Department.

"The licences of schools we will cancel include those that have not renewed their licences for more than three or five years. Some schools do not provide a curriculum to learners, which is a violation," Bu Shihab told Gulf News.

He said institutes have been notified several times that they have to improve their standards, but they did not abide by instructions. Hence, they will be shut.

"They have been given sufficient time to improve and offered many alternatives including merging into one school. They were also offered land to set up a modern institute, but no one responded," Bu Shihab said.



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