News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Domestic workers shy away from amnesty offer

Abu Dhabi - Jul 16:
Housemaids and other domestic workers have not come forward to take advantage of the amnesty for illegal workers.  “The response from this sector was very weak,” said a source at the Abu Dhabi Naturalisation and Residency Department (ADNRD).

Visitors and residents, whose visas had expired, were much more likely to apply to leave the country, added the source, who wished to remain anonymous.

He said 80 per cent of those who had left were male. This was because much of the information about the amnesty had been directed at labourers and their employers rather than at domestic workers, many of whom could not read.

Ahmed Al Sayed, the sponsor of an absconding housemaid, accused some recruitment firms of misleading foreign workers. They hired out absconding staff at hourly rates after convincing them that the amnesty was a trap to catch and deport them.

Ibrahim Salama, the owner of a typing office, said the weak response from this sector was because absconding maids needed to obtain the consent of their sponsor to correct their status.

It was often impossible to obtain this consent – leaving maids no other choice except deportation and a ban from re-entering the country.

Merra S, the director of a recruitment agency, said many UAE national families were not willing to allow their maids to stay in the country after absconding. They were afraid the maids would reveal their secrets and private affairs to a new sponsor – so they insisted on their departure.

Housewife Umm Saleem said if the response to the amnesty from maids picked up then valuable skills will be lost. These included knowledge of the local language, traditions, food and the correct way to bring up children.

Recruiting new maids will place an extra burden on families in terms of training and making them familiar with the society and its characteristics.

But Lieutenant-Colonel Ibrahim Al Sirkal, head of the Follow-up and Investigation Section, said the requirement for consent should stay. “How else can we guarantee the rights and entitlements of the previous sponsor? The absconding maid is an outlaw.”

Temporary job permits from September

DUBAI — Jul 16: From September 2007 onwards, the Ministry of Labour (MoL) will start issuing ‘temporary job permits’ to enable companies to hire workers for a short period of time.

The temporary job permits, the duration of which has not been specified yet, will curb the tendency of some companies to hire workers on visit visas.

Humeid bin Demas, assistant under-secretary at the MoL, said the decision aimed at checking the companies from hiring illegal workers. “Of the total illegal workers in the UAE, nearly 90 per cent are those working for companies on visit visas,” Bin Demas said.

The official added that the details of the temporary job permits would be made public soon.

Bin Demas’ statement came yesterday as he met Ibrahim Hafez, Consul-General of Egypt in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, at the MoL office in Dubai.

“The Egyptian Consulate is one of the first diplomatic missions to discuss with the MoL how to make amnesty a success. We have agreed on providing the Consulate with the names of illegal labourers whose labour cards or work permits have expired. We’ll soon start having regular meetings with the Consulate officials and labourers. We’ll clarify the amnesty procedures to the latter,” Bin Demas noted.

The official urged other diplomatic missions to follow suit and encourage the illegals from their countries to benefit from the amnesty period.

Bin Demas also said: “We agreed with the Egyptian Consul-General on facilitating the procedures of transfer of sponsorship for Egyptian labourers so that they can shift to new companies offering them sponsorship.”


New contract system to help tourists

ABU DHABI — Jul 16: Travel and tour operators in the capital have begun offering a new standard contract to their clients, as per the recent regulations introduced by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

The new contract is aimed at safeguarding the interests of both the parties — the tour operators and their clients.

Nasser Al Reyami, manager of Licensing and Classification Division at the ADTA said the new rules would further empower customers to complain or seek compensation in case tour operators fail to honour any particular aspect of the contract. “This is a significant development. It will certainly boost the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi,” Al Reyami added.

The contract lists the details of the reservations and services, and aims at helping the tourists who choose to avail themselves of holidays through travel agents.


Out of the deep sea, thanks to amnesty

ABU DHABI — Jul 16: Ever since she was issued an outpass by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Katta Mangthayaru has been on a cloud nine, literally.

Ditched and dejected, she had lost all hopes of returning home till amnesty was announced. And now, the distance between dream and reality is thinning fast for her.

Mangthayaru had been working as a housemaid in the capital much against her will. In fact, she was lured to the capital by her agent to work with a school but forced to work as a maid on a salary of Dh400 per month. 

On hearing of the amnesty plan of the UAE government last month, the Indian woman, 37, pleaded with her sponsor many a time to let her go back home. But her pleadings fell on deaf ears.

However, the longing for amnesty proved too difficult for her to resist. So she escaped the house and headed straight to the Indian Embassy. Helping her in the mission was Pruthviraj Cheruku, a volunteer of Telugu Association.

Mangthayaru’s woes had begun soon after she arrived in the UAE in December last year. “The housemaid job was against my will. I never thought I would be doing this. I had paid Rs50,000 (around Dh4,600) to my agent for the visa,” she said. She also alleged that her visa and passport were with the sponsor.

However, after going through all the torment, Mangthayaru, who is married with two children, is grateful to the UAE government for announcing the amnesty. She cannot wait to head for her town, West Godawari, in Andhra Pradesh in India.

Would she want to come back? “No, not really,” she said.


Over 10,000 applications being tackled daily by DNRD

DUBAI — Jul 16: The Follow-up and Investigation Section (FIS) in Jumeirah is still facing big rush even though a 24-hour work system has been put in place about one week ago. More than 10,000 applications for amnesty-seekers are being processed daily by FIS as confirmed by the Director of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department.

Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director of DNRD,  said,  “The section is thronged daily by scores of amnesty seekers and the system is being more and more streamlined. Our staff are mobilised 24 hours a day to process smoothly as many applications as possible each day. We have brought staff from our DNRD headquarters for duty at FIS and help process amnesty-seekers’ applications.”

Brig Al Marri said,  “About one week ago we had told the amnesty-seekers to come at 5pm in an endeavour to protect them against  scorching heat. The staff at the FIS is instructed on offering best facilities and services to the amnesty seekers.”


Rush continues at India, Pak missions

DUBAI — Jul 16: The special centres set up by the Indian and Pakistani diplomatic missions in the emirate to issue outpasses for amnesty seekers, are once again witnessing heavy rush this week despite measures taken by the diplomatic staff and volunteers to streamline the procedures.

Thousands of Indian amnesty seekers who crowded the Indian High School Centre yesterday dreaming about meeting their loved ones back home complained that the officials were not providing them with some of the basic information. Many felt that  their dream of meeting their families would not become a reality.

The scene at the Pakistan Association was also the same with a lot of people somehow braving the heat to get their outpasses.

Ahmad Qureishi, an amnesty-seeker said, “The heat is our biggest problem. Though preparations have been made, the crowd has worsened the situation. But we are ready to face anything as long as we get the outpasses.”

With the waiting rooms at the Shaikh Rashid Auditorium of the Indian High School proving to be too small owing to the rush, hundreds of people stood in the scorching heat to complete formalities for the outpasses. According to the amnesty seekers, the whole process was getting a bit too long.

Ghansi Lal Saini, an illegal labourer hailing from the Indian state of Rajasthan said, “I came down here in December 2005 after paying Rs 95,000 to an agent in India. I  was hired as a brick mason at a salary of Dh700 per month. But after coming here I got only Dh37 in the first month. I had joined late in the month and they paid me for the last four days. They even rejected my application for an advance. The next month, I  was paid Dh340. The company gave me no reasons for this and I was asked to talk to the agent when I complained. When I refused work, they held back my passport. It has been more than 15 days now that I am running pillar to post to the company, consulate and this place. The officials here just say that I need to make an outpass. But then how can I just leave my passport with them? I am trying to get an answer but no one is interested in saying anything to me,” he said.

There were others who said that the whole process was getting too long. “There are so many people like us. Now I fear whether I would be able to get out within the time limit given by the UAE government. “Only God knows what will happen. Actually I don’t want to return. I have paid a sum of Rs1 lakh to the agent. Back home I have my mother and four of my children. Two of them are girls and I have to marry them off. The company for which I worked closed down two years back. But after September 2, any company which hires illegal workers will be fined Dh 50,000 under the rules. So I don’t stand a chance to get a job. But I have still not been able to repay my debts,” said Ramadheer Singh, who hails from a remote village in Bihar.

The people also complained about insufficient number of counters.



Dubai - Toolbox of terror

Dubai - Jul 16: Staff at Dubai Media City were forced to evacuate several offices yesterday after an abandoned toolbox caused pandemonium. Loft Office 1 of the media hub was cordoned off at around 4pm, and workers forced to head to other buildings, while police and civil defence officers allegedly investigated reports of an abandoned case in an elevator.

But while staff were concerned the suspect case may have contained an explosive device, the reality, they say, was far less dramatic. One writer who works in the office block affected said: “According to our security guard the lift maintenance guys broke for lunch and left their tool case in the elevator. Someone saw the case, worried, and called the emergency services.”

Staff were turfed out of their office for about an hour and despite initial worry about the implications were able to laugh about the incident. “I’m obviously relieved,” one worker said. “But I’m not sure I ever really thought it was anything too serious. I thought maybe it was a small fire.”

Another added: “I was sitting outside having a cigarette and then heard quite a lot of sirens - one too many for it to be normal. So I looked inside the building and there were some police officers standing with a guy next to the elevator - he looked like he was explaining something to them.”

Soon after, she returned to the office but, moments later, police asked everybody to leave the building. “They told us to move away from the building, then we saw the civil defence cordoning off the area with yellow tape,” she added. By 5pm the area was back to normal and office workers were safely back at work. Dubai civil defence and police were not available for comment last night.


Dubai - He stole all my clothes

Dubai - Jul 16: An Algerian merchant who was charged in his home country with importing fireworks has taken the owner of a cargo company to court claiming he has no idea where they came from.

He claims he went to the company and gave them clothes worth a total of $137,900 and paid for them to be shipped to Algeria. However, when the shipment arrived and was opened by Algerian authorities it was found to contain only fireworks, with no clothes to be seen.

Speaking about the UAE national owner of the company, the merchant told the court: “He took the goods and sent fireworks instead, which are forbidden to enter the country and illegal.” However, the owner denies taking any money from the Algerian, claiming he agreed to transfer the load as a favour and had no idea about what he was sending. The case has been adjourned until later this month.


Returning expatriates do not carry viral fever risk

UAE - Jul 16:
Health experts yesterday said there was no risk of expatriates spreading viral fever when they return to the UAE from Kerala.  The Indian state has suffered an outbreak of chikungunya, which has killed 40 people and affected 19,000 others. The fever is spread by mosquitoes.

But Dr Mahmoud Sikry, of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine, said there was no need for people in the UAE to worry about the epidemic.

No international alert had been issued by the World Health Organisation or any other body, he said.  And the ministry had not issued any warnings to UAE nationals travelling to India.

“A lot of Indians travel every day to various countries, including the UK, the US, other Gulf countries and the UAE,” he added. “There is no need to panic about chikungunya or other viral epidemics in Kerala, and the ministry is aware of the situation.” Experts ruled out any problem in the UAE because there are no disease carrying mosquitoes to spread the virus here.

No case of chikungunya has been found in the UAE during the current outbreak in Kerala. Patients have had symptoms of other viral fevers but these are not regarded as dangerous and are normal at this time of year.  Dr Jose Raj of Sunny Clinic, Sharjah, said: “We get many patients with viral fever, which is seasonal. Patients of different nationalities come with symptoms such as body pain, a running nose and headache.

“In the last two weeks alone, I have treated five fever patients in Sharjah, but they had nothing to do with the viral fever in India. We don’t have any patient with symptoms of chikungunya.” A spokesman for Al Rafaa Clinic, Bur Dubai, said: “As there are no disease carrying mosquitoes to spread the virus, there is no need to worry.” Some expatriates travelling to Kerala are obtaining preventive homoeopathic medicine from a private clinic in Abu Dhabi before departing.

Dr Bindu Nair, a homoeophatic doctor at Al Ahlia Medical Centre, said: “We are giving medicine for viral fevers. It is not vaccination but preventive medicine. More than 200 families have taken the homeopathic medicine, which enhances the body’s antiviral immunity.” Conventional doctors recommend that those travelling to affected areas should apply mosquito repellent to the skin and clothing, and stay in wellscreened areas when indoors.

When outdoors during the day, they should wear longsleeved shirts and long trousers in order to avoid mosquito bites.



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