NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Now, you can SMS money back home
DUBAI — Jul 10: For thousands of expat workers in the UAE, the long wait and serpentine queues at exchange houses to remit money home will soon be an ordeal of the past.
With a new SMS technology, they will now be able to send and receive money instantly around the world, provided they have a ‘salary card’ issued by a leading UAE bank.
In a pioneering effort to provide financial services across the UAE to a category of ‘underserved and unbanked people,’ mostly low income workers, Emirates Bank is introducing this card, which can be used to remit funds, and pay local and international bill by SMS.
“This method will be cheaper, safer and more convenient than current alternatives,” a spokesman of the bank told Khaleej Times. The card can also be used like a debit card at ATMs to withdraw cash or make payments at point of sales outlets.
“There is no need to maintain an account or a minimum balance with the bank,” he added.
The service will be available through a variety of channels including SMS, call centres, and ATMs.
The bank offers this global remittance service in conjunction with Infospan Inc, a California-based technology company.
According to Jamal bin Ghalaita, General Manager Consumer Banking & Wealth Management at Emirates Bank, the bank has received interest from various employers, merchants and government agencies to tie-up with this service and create a truly unique all-in-one payment card that can be easily recharged at hundreds of locations across the UAE.
“Such a service is all the more significant for its timing now that the government, in its effort to ensure that low income workers wages are paid on time, is making it mandatory that their remuneration should be paid through banks,” says the spokesman of a major contracting company which has more than a thousand blue-collar workers.
“With this new solution, employers will be able to credit salaries to workers accounts automatically. These workers will be able to access hundreds of ATMs and Point-Of-Sale units across the UAE at low costs and with no minimum monthly balance requirements.
“In addition, they will be able to remit funds back home in a method that is cheaper, safer and more convenient than current alternatives,” the bank said.
Evening shift to handle amnesty rush
DUBAI — Jul 10: With effect from today, applications of amnesty-seekers will be accepted from 5pm until midnight at the Follow-up and Investigation Section (FIS) of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department(DNRD) in Jumeirah.
The move comes in the wake of heavy rush of amnesty-seekers over the last few days outside the FIS office.
Braving scorching heat, amnesty-seekers queued up outside the FIS office everyday from the wee hours in the hope that their turn would come the same day to complete the formalities for exit pass. Several cases of heat stroke have been reported in the last two days.
Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director of DNRD, told Khaleej Times that the timing to accept applications of amnesty-seekers has been changed for all nationalities.
“Amnesty-seekers will only be permitted to gather near the FIS office in the evenings just before 5pm to submit their applications for cancellation and other necessary amnesty-related procedures.”
“Amnesty-seekers of all nationalities can come as of today from 5pm and each day of the week, irrespective of the days fixed earlier for different nationalities. The DNRD staff will work overnight to process all the applications of amnesty-seekers carrying the necessary documents.”
Al Marri said, “The decision has been taken out of concern over the health and safety of amnesty-seekers. We don’t want them to suffer sunstrokes.”
Brig. Al Marri’s announcement came as he toured the FIS yesterday and checked on how the applications of amnesty-seekers were being processed.
“I saw the rush of thousands of illegals and don’t think it was convenient for them to wait endlessly under the scorching sun,” he said.
Commenting on his earlier decision of allocating days for different nationalities, he said the move proved unsuccessful. “Irrespective of the designated days, amnesty-seekers would hang outside FIS office for long hours in the open and stay overnight,” he pointed out.
Brig. Al Marri added, “The violators of residency and entry permits will be better off when they come to apply for amnesty in our DNRD special hall in the evening time. Though the hall, which was opened especially for amnesty-seekers is air-conditioned they are coming in huge numbers and the hall cannot accommodate all of them.
Water bus service launch next week
DUBAI — Jul 10: The Dubai Creek is all set to host swanky water buses that will carry passengers to their respective destinations.
The much-awaited water bus service of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will be launched next week on five routes or lines, including one exclusively for tourists. While daily commuters will be charged Dh4 for a trip, tourists will be charged Dh25 for a 45-minute tour.
An agreement to this effect has been signed betwen the RTA and Singapore-based Penguin Boat International Ltd.
Senior RTA officials said they were also contemplating to run more water buses in the Dubai Creek.
Engineer Eisa Abdul Rehman Al Dosari, CEO of RTA’s Marine Agency, said: “There would be five lines for these water buses, including one for tourists. The one for tourists would start from Shindagha Station and go upto Al Seef Station. For daily commuters, there are four lines. They will operate from Al Seef Station to the Baniyas Station, Sabkha Station to Bur Dubai Station, Old Souk Station to Al Seef Station and Old Souk Station to the Baniyas Station, and back. The commuters will be charged Dh4 per trip.”
“They can also buy a pre-paid card for the same. During peak hours, the water buses will be running at 10-minute intervals. During ordinary hours, they will be available after every 20 minutes,” he said.
The buses will operate from 6am to 11pm. “We have got all the facilities for everyone. The length of the water bus is 10 metres and it has two diesel engines. The bus is fully air-conditioned with comfortable seating arrangement and LCD screens. People with special needs can also use it easily. We are modifying the stations so that people with special needs don’t have any problem in travelling in these buses. Moreover, we are taking the best safety measures,” RTA officials said.
Illegals brave summer heat
DUBAI — Jul 10: There was a heavy turnout of amnesty-seekers, largely Indian, outside the Follow-up and Investigation Section (FIS) of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) in Jumeirah for the second consecutive day yesterday. DNRD officials also reported having a hard time handling the crowd.
According to amnesty-seekers who had had to wait out in the summer heat, there is no shade or shelter to provide them respite from the blazing sun nor water-coolers for them to quench their thirst.
There were reports of a few people suffering from heat-related illnesses, some of whom had to be hospitalised.
A doctor who volunteered his service to amnesty-seekers yesterday said, “At least two people who approached me had suffered heat stroke and dehydration due to lack of water and high summer temperatures.”
He said he hoped that the authorities would approach some clinics to set up temporary camps on the premises in the interest of many waiting to leave the country. Besides, temporary canopies or tents need to be provided to protect amnesty-seekers from heat.
A number of workers outside FIS complained that they had been hanging around for two days in the vicinity without proper shades, water or food. “I have been waiting here since Saturday night. I just had some water since the time I came here. I want to return home as early as possible. One of my friends had fainted and somebody took him to a hospital,” said Lal Babu, an amnesty-seeker.
“Since the amnesty was announced, I have been running from pillar to post. I received the outpass from Indian consulate after two weeks and I have been waiting for my turn here for two days,” said Suresh Kumar, another worker.
A police official on the spot said, “We are trying our level best to control the crowd. The problem is most of them are uneducated and they do not understand the dates announced for another day for a visit. They continue to hang around in the area. We sympathise with them and are trying our best to make them understand the procedures.”
K. Kumar, convenor of Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), said, “We have decided to send snacks and water for those people thronging the DNRD office.”
Yesterday evening, after the news of heavy rush was reported at the FIS office, some members of the Indian community visited the scene and offered water and other things to those waiting there.
“I visited the spot yesterday evening and provided some help to the people,” said Naveen Sharma, an Indian businessmen and secretary of Indian Business Promotion Council.
Commenting on the situation, Indian Consul-General Venu Rajamony said, “We are reviewing the situation and have suggested ICWC to provide help to these people. We will also take up this matter with DNRD officials.”
‘Missing girl’ email proves a hoax
DUBAI — Jul 10: An email mentioning the ‘disappearance’ of a 13-year-old in the UAE for the past two weeks has been tugging at the heart strings of a growing number of residents. But if reports are to be believed the UAE residents would be better off ignoring it.
The tale of ‘missing’ Ashley Flores is a hoax which has been furiously forwarded from email boxes from the United States to Australia since May 2006, according to media reports and urbanlegends.com.
The email resurfaced again recently in Malta and this week in Dubai where it reached the inbox of Lipika Nanaiah on Sunday.
“When I saw the image I thought the girl wasn’t 13, but then I read what the mother said and it was quite touching,” she said.
The recipient is told Flores has been ‘missing’ for two weeks and even includes a purported photo of the 13-year-old girl, along with the same phrase from her supposed mother: “I am asking you all, begging you to please forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, please. My 13-year-old girl, Ashley Flores, is missing. She has been missing for two weeks now. It is still not too late.” Nanaiah immediately sent the email to a further 30 people, many of whom again forwarded the email.
Rachna Chadha was shocked to discover the email was a hoax.
“Why do people do this? We have enough stress and tragedy in the world,” she said.
One of the earliest references to Flores ‘disappearance’ was posted on a Dubai community portal on Thursday, July 5.
Few of the details have changed since the American version last year, except it does not mention she went ‘missing’ from Philadelphia.
She has still been ‘missing’ two weeks and again none of the details about how or where she supposedly went ‘missing’ are included.
Urbanlegends.com tracked down the origins of the email when it first came to light last year and discovered a girl matching the photo existed and her friend, Vicki, began the email as a prank.
Vicki told urbanlegends.com: “Ashley Flores is not missing. It was merely a joke that got completely out of hand. Please inform everyone that she is not missing. It was a joke. I’m sorry about any confusion.”
Floating bridge will open next week and ease traffic
Dubai - Jul 10: Dubai’s Dh81.5 million floating bridge is to open next week, said the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). The bridge over the Creek has been built using 20-metrewide hollow concrete blocks that float on water.
Part of it can be opened to allow ships to pass.
The bridge, half a kilometre south of Al Maktoum Bridge, will carry 6,000 vehicles during the morning and evening peak hours.
It will be open to motorists between 6am and 10pm and is expected to reduce traffic on Al Maktoum Bridge – used by 150,000 vehicles a day – by 37 per cent.
The new bridge, which has three lanes in each direction, will provide a route between Khalid bin Al Waleed Road and Oud Metha on one side and Ittihad Road and Deira on the other.
The 300-metre-long bridge will give motorists wishing to avoid paying the Salik toll at Al Garhoud Bridge an alternative way to cross the Creek.
The number of lanes crossing the Creek will rise from 19 to 38 during this year and to 45 in 2008.
In another move, the RTA will next week start operating 10 water buses on the Creek.
They will call at five stations – Al Sabkha, Old Deira Souk, Old Dubai Souk, Bur Dubai and Bani Yas.They will operate from 6am to midnight seven days a week, with a 10minute gap between trips, said the authority.
Man assaults and robs wife
Dubai - Jul 10: A man raped his wife after drugging her then robbed her of cash and jewellery, Dubai Criminal Court heard. SS, a 31-year-old visitor from China, entered an apartment where his wife, BL, 28, was staying by climbing up water-pipes.
A witness, who was in the house, told the court: “He said he had come to kill her.” The witness fled and SS found his wife in one of the rooms. He brandished a knife and threatened to stab her, then forced her to take two pills. After taking the pills, she became dizzy and he raped her. He then took $2,050 (Dh7,523), Dh3,000, two gold rings and a gold bracelet and kept her in the house for several hours.
The witness called the police, who broke down the door and arrested SS.
A man raped his wife after drugging her then robbed her of cash and jewellery, Dubai Criminal Court heard. SS, a 31-year-old visitor from China, entered an apart- ment where his wife, BL, 28, was staying by climbing up water-pipes. A witness, who was in the house, told the court: “He said he had come to kill her.” The witness fled and SS found his wife in one of the rooms. He brandished a knife and threatened to stab her, then forced her to take two pills. After taking the pills, she became dizzy and he raped her. He then took $2,050 (Dh7,523), Dh3,000, two gold rings and a gold bracelet and kept her in the house for several hours. The witness called the police, who broke down the door and arrested SS.
Dubai - Left Stranded
Dubai - Jul 10: Atleast 140 Sri Lankan women, made redundant after the Dubai garment factory they were working in closed suddenly, are being forced to share a single Jumeirah villa while they await payment. The dirham-less women, aged between 20 and 35 years, are forced to sleep wedged together in the 15 rooms of the villa - relying on food hand-outs from the company, and the kindness of neighbours, in order to survive until they leave the UAE.
Another 60-odd men, from Sri Lanka and India, are also sleeping at the factory itself while the Sri Lankan Consulate and Dubai authorities attempt to obtain the month-and-a-half wages, plus gratuity, they are owed. The women earned around dhs500 each per month and the men around dhs1,200.
Yesterday one of the women told 7DAYS: “Our last day of work was on May 30. We are owed one-and-a-half months' salary, plus gratuity - which is anything between one year and ten of service. We have no money and want to go home, but we need our salaries first. Our children need money.”
The garments factory, situated in Jebel Ali Free Zone, was run by an Indian man who, the Sri Lankan Consulate in Dubai says, has promised to pay up several times - each time claiming the bank process is taking longer than expected. But workers say they have been told this several times and some are becoming desperate.
Former section supervisor Jude said: “Some of the women say they have considered suicide. It is not easy for us. We have calls from our families asking for money every day now. These women have not been able to pay their families' rent for three months and they have children to support in Sri Lanka. My wife and two children are having to borrow from friends but that cannot continue.”
Yesterday the Sri Lankan Consul General, Sena Nayake, confirmed he is in daily talks with the workers' former employer, who 7DAYS were unable to contact last night. “The manager has assured me they will be paid, something we have heard several times, but we must trust his word now as perhaps these things take time”, Nayake said. “We have contacted the Jebel Ali Free Zone authorities however, who have assured us they will support us if things are not resolved.”
Dubai - Child raped in school
Dubai - Jul 10: A student has gone on trial for raping an 11-year-old boy in a school toilet after threatening to kill him if he refused. The judge ordered a closed session yesterday to hear the American victim’s evidence of how the 19-year-old Somali student raped him.
The youngster told the court his attacker threatened him saying: “If you yell out or refuse or don’t follow my orders then it will be your last day of your life.” The victim was so afraid that he went with the accused to the school’s toilet and was then brutally attacked and raped. The schoolboy told his parents of his ordeal and they then contacted police. The accused denies the charge and the trial has been adjourned.
Salik woes continue to bog down motorists
DUBAI — Jul 10: Motorists in Dubai seem to be facing endless woes since the launch of Salik 10 days ago. While many are still waiting to receive their SMS alerts for card activation, a number of motorists are complaining that Salik tags, when recharged recently, have failed to show credit amounts against their Salik account number.
“If the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) can instantly debit our tags with every use of the toll gate, what is the delay in showing instant credit against our Salik tags,” complained a Salik customer in Dubai.
In addition, commuters complained that the RTA is not providing a clear answer with regards to the various queries. The Salik toll free number 800-72545 is constantly busy and if one does get through, it is very difficult to hear the representative’s voice, said N.R. who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mohamed Ebrahim Jin, another Salik customer, said, “I purchased my Salik card on July 2 and it got activated the next day. I got the confirmation SMS which showed my debit and the account number. I passed through the Salik gate 6 times and the amount of Dh24 was deducted accordingly. Now I had a balance of Dh26 in my account. However, to have enough credit on my Salik tag, I recharged my Salik tag for Dh100 at an EPPCO gas station in Dubai two days ago.”
“I am still waiting for my credit balance to show as Dh126. Instead, it shows Dh26, my previous balance. I have tried hard to know the reason but failed,” he said.
Man standing on pavement crushed by car
AL AIN — Jul 10: A 32-year-old man standing on the pavement was killed when a car driver lost control and knocked him at around 10pm on Saturday at Sinaeyah in Al Ain Industrial Area.
The victim was identified as Ganesh Bingery, an Indian national.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, an official from the Emergency and Safety Unit of Al Ain Police (AAPESU) said Bingery died on the spot.
The official added that Bingery’s body had been sent to the morgue of Al Ain Government Hospital (Al Jimmi Hospital) for post-mortem.