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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Exodus of Illegals Triggers Shortage of Labour   
UAE : SEP 02:
An exodus of illegal employees triggered by the amnesty offered by the UAE is set to open the jobs market for a qualified workforce – especially in construction sector.  This, in fact, was one of the aims of the amnesty, according to Humaid bin Dimas, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour.The ministry is also offering to deal with any shortage of labour created due to thousands leaving under the amnesty.

“The amnesty is aimed at clearing the labour market from illegalities. Employers who are in need for workers can apply to the ministry to recruit people as per the country’s laws,” Dimas told Emirates Today.

Concerns have been raised in the construction sector over the loss of substantial labour slowing the completion of projects. Labour supply companies and recruitment agents say they are being flooded with requests for experienced fabricators, welders, airconditioning mechanics and plumbers, among others.

Many technically trained employees who were illegals and left under the amnesty can now return to the UAE and attract a better deal due to current levels of demand. The fear of a lack of labour has placed pressure on con tracting agencies. Delan Alex, of Green Track Contracting, said, “Companies find it difficult to get new visas and with some [illegals] drawing a six-month ban and getting blacklisted, for them coming back is not always easy.

“We have to comply with various contracts made with companies. If we cannot complete the work on time, there is a penalty clause.” Shaji Cheriyan, manager of another contracting com pany, said: “At one time we had 500 employees on sites. Now we have only 80.There are so many vacancies and we are ready to give visas to trained people.” The ‘trickle-up’ effect is that even major construction companies are on recruitment drives to fined skilled, new employees.

Number of Amnesty Seekers nears 185000
Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) has announced that the number of illegal workers who came forward with their applications during the amnesty period from June 2 until Friday has reached 184,873 in Dubai.

The administration, which operated its main branch in Jumeirah as well as its peripheral facilities across the emirate, has also created temporary centres to receive and process the maximum number of applications six days a week and 24 hours a day.

“By August 31, the administration has issued 121,605 out-passes and helped regularise the status of 53,268 illegal workers”, said Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director of DNRD.

Al Marri commended the staff members at the facilities for their efforts during the amnesty period and for giving up their well-deserved holidays with their families during summer to assist in the nationwide amnesty campaign.

Al Marri also expressed his appreciation for the different consulates, including the Indian and Egyptian consulates in Dubai, for their co-operation and support.

Al Marri called on the illegal workers to benefit from the extended amnesty period to legalise their status.

Amnesty to fix illegal practices
The amnesty in the country is aimed at clearing the labour market from illegal labour force and practices.

Employers who are in need for workers can apply to the ministry to recruit people as per the country’s laws, said Humaid bin Dimas, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour.

He said the amnesty was not only a grace period for illegal people to alter their status by either leaving the country or legalising their visa status, but was also an opportunity for employers to adhere to the country’s laws and the ministry’s rules.

“During the amnesty employers were allowed to amend status of employees working illegally for them and relaxed its rules regarding other violations including having expired work permits and labour cards,” he said.

“We have given all possible facility to employers for rectifying these violations without paying fines,” he added.

Aiming at helping employers and illegal workers to benefit from the amnesty, the ministry operated yesterday and will continue to do so from 7.30am to 6pm, he said.

Employers who offered illegals jobs do not have to arrange for the departure of their staff, said Dimas. On Monday, the computer system of the ministry will be changed and the fines sys tem will re-implemented,” Dimas said.   “The ministry will not accept receiving applications for work permits if there were violations in their records.

“Violating employers will be made to pay the stipulated fines and will not be any exemptions from the rules,” he said. “The ministry will implement its administrative penalties and heavy fines and jail terms will be stipulated soon,” Dimas said. “We cannot support employers to do their business when they refuse by the rules and regulations of the country,” the ministry official said.

“If employers are committed to the laws, the ministry is committed to serving them.

Indians leave before grace period ends
Despite the three-month grace period announced by the Interior Ministry for out-pass holders, which ends on November 3, several illegals have decided to use free charter flight services being offered by charitable organisations and philanthropists.

Of 165 passengers chosen to travel aboard a chartered flight of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), 162 boarded the flight, opting not to use the full grace period.

The three who did not fly cited personal reasons for not doing so.   “Many Indians are not staying back to utilise the grace period,” said Yahya Thalangara, Dubai KMCC president.

Blue-collar job market hit hard
The amnesty offered by the UAE to illegals in the country may have drained the country of thousands of desperate people stuck here for years. However, it has also left a vacuum in the blue-collar job market.

Directly hit, according to placement agencies and manpower providers here, are sectors like construction, packaging, domestic help, warehousing and transport.

Fearing a crackdown on those employing illegals after the amnesty period, most firms and businesses had in any case stopped hiring those without proper papers; however, until recently the above mentioned sectors had provided a means of income to those whose residence status was in question.

Now these very sectors are feeling the pinch of the amnesty campaign.

“We have a big demand for housemaids and technicians for the construction field.

“Many illegal housemaids have used the amnesty to go back. The Philippine government has instituted a minimum wage for housemaids,” said Hesham Abdullah, a recruitment agent in Dubai. “As many Asian housemaids have left the country, the rate of part-time housemaids has also gone up.” Illegals also provided cheap labour on various farms and at the ports.

Even some white-collar private companies who had illegal employees are now sending them back under the amnesty for fear of running afoul of the law.


Electrician receives a Dh100,000 surprise
Dubai - Sep. 02: After six years of repairing circuit boards, Mohammad Salim finally connected with his luck when he won Dh100,000 through Postcard Millionaire.

He had bought his winning Postcard Millionaire pack on August 16 from Abu Dhabi Central Post Office.

“It was 7pm when I bought the Postcard Millionaire pack. I had gone to the post office after work to have a post office box alloted to my shop. I saw the packs there and decided to buy one,” said the Bangladeshi electrician.

On August 22, Salim got the call he was looking forward to for a very long time.  “It was 3pm and I was working on a customer’s car when I got the call from The Millionaire Company.  “I often thought I probably wouldn’t believe it when and if I got a call from Postcard Millionaire. But when I answered the phone, I knew straight away this was my day.

“I rushed inside my shop and told my friend before I called my family. My wife and two daughters, aged nine and four, were overjoyed.” EMP officials drew the winning number – 6790647292 – at the 46th draw of the Postcard Millionaire campaign, which was held at Ajman Central Post Office on August 22.

Salim came to know of Postcard Millionaire through friends and advertisements about two years ago, and since then he has bought 20 packs.   His friend, Sanaullah, who accompanied him to the official ticket verification, said: “He never lost hope, no matter what anyone said.” “I never got discouraged for not winning; I always left it to my destiny,” Salim said.

Salim is one of three brothers and came to the UAE when one of his siblings sponsored him on a shop licence they had acquired.   Salim came to Abu Dhabi in 2001 to work for Al Tamania Electrics where he continued for two years before the company closed down. He then decided to utilise the shop licence his brother had acquired and it has been four years since he started his own repair business.


Dubai - Trio accused of mugging bank customer

Dubai - Sep. 02: Three men have gone on trial accused of stealing dhs114,200 by accosting a man outside the bank from which he had just withdrawn the money.

One of the accused worked at Emirates International Bank and is alleged to have alerted two of his friends when the man arrived to withdraw the cash. “I had gone just 50 metres from the bank when I noticed two people chasing me. I was surprised when they tried to steal the money which was in an envelope,” the victim said.

He said he tried to fight off the men and even took off his shoes in an attempt to run faster. However, the men continued to pursue him, eventually catching up and forcing him to the ground.

“The money fell out on the ground and the two men started to collect the money. I was afraid and was asking for help” he said. After investigating the crime, police swooped to arrest the bank clerk who then led officers to his alleged accomplices.

Police are still hunting for a fourth individual who is believed to have worked with the clerk. All three deny the charges and the trial has been adjourned until later this month.


Teachers struggle amid low salaries, high rents

ABU DHABI — Sep. 02: A hoarding in an Abu Dhabi street announces ‘Teachers Are Our Future’, reflecting that the teachers are being given top priority by the authorities. But, perhaps, not many know about their sufferings.

Low salaries and skyrocketing rents combine to put teachers in a difficult situation. Many a time they find it difficult to manage their monthly budgets.

A teacher, A.W., working in a  private school says, “The administration refuses to calculate my end-of-service benefits on a yearly basis. I worked for five years, but the school administration wants to calculate my benefits for the academic years only without counting the number of months I worked.”

“Moreover, the administration wants to deduct wages for the summer months from my total dues,” she said.

A debate is taking place among those working in the field of education because teachers always want to calculate their end-of-service benefit on the basis of the academic year, but the private schools have their own methods to calculate it.

According to Dr. Khalid Khamees Al Abri, Head of Education Department in the Abu Dhabi Education Zone, “We have opened a cell which deals with all kinds of complaints from teachers as well as from school administrations. If the school administration fails to resolve the matter amicably the teachers can approach the education authorities for claiming their rights and privileges.”

However, we encourage amicable settlement of disputes between teachers and school managements, Al Abri pointed out.

Teachers working in public schools, too, face financial problems as the salaries quite often don’t meet their requirements. A science teacher working in a model school in the capital, who preferred not to be named, said, “I earn some Dh4,800 every month and I am working for the past 19 years. We have been hearing about increments, but nothing has happened so far,” the teacher stated.

Teachers in private schools are not supposed to pay the fees for labour card, visa and medical check-up because it is the responsibility of the employer, according to Assistant Undersecretary in the Ministry of labour Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi.

Many private school administrations in the emirate of Abu Dhabi approached the MoL for regularising status of some of their staff after the MoL launched an inspection campaign.


RTA plans exclusive bus lanes in selected areas

DUBAI — Sep. 02: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is mulling the idea of introducing exclusive bus lanes in selected places in Dubai in a bid to ease the excessive traffic on roads.

Senior RTA officials confirmed that the project could see the light of day in a couple of months from now.  Mohammed Obeid Al Mulla, the CEO of the Public Transport Agency of the RTA,  said that studies were on in order to select the areas where this service could be launched. We are at present studying the different areas. We want to launch this service in areas where there is heavy traffic .

“Our motive is to reduce the traffic in those areas. We need to have a detailed study before reaching into any conclusions,” he said.

Another senior official revealed on conditions of anonymity that the RTA was also working out a plan which would ensure a smooth traffic if at all the Metro is temporarily interrupted due to any technical reasons. If at all the Metro stops temporarily due to some technical snag, the buses will take its place. There would be no traffic disruption at all.

“The buses would be running along the routes bordering the Metro lines.

“This comes within the plan of the RTA for a Mass Transit System. This would ensure that traffic would not stop in any case,” said the official.

The RTA officials said that the lanes for the public buses would be ensuring less traffic blocks.

“With the buses moving along the earmarked lanes, they would be able to move freely.

“No other vehicles would be entering these lanes. This would ensure a smooth ride without any traffic hiccups”, he said. “We are planning various projects when it comes to the public transport system. We would be covering more than 90 per cent of Dubai through public buses.

“People will get a bus stand every 700 metres. The public bus would be available 24 hours in the future,” said Al Mulla.


400 rent dispute cases closed

ABU DHABI — Sep. 02: The Rent Disputes Settlement Committee in Abu Dhabi has dismissed over 400 cases simply because the landlords and tenants had either withdrawn the cases or failed to follow them up.

“The committee has the right to dismiss a case if the claimant expresses the desire not to pursue action or if one of the disputing parties fails to appear for hearings more than once after being officially notified of the date,” a source in the committee said


Pulse 95.3 goes on air

DUBAI — Sep. 02: Arabian Radio Network (ARN) launched Pulse 95.3, a new radio station for the South Asian community, which officially started operations early this morning.

Pulse 95.3 will captialise on the influence of Bollywood, which has sparked a new interest in evergreen hits from the subcontinent. The station will also provide in-depth coverage of local and international news.


Labour department moves to Mussafah

ABU DHABI — Sep 02: The Department of the Labour Affairs at the Ministry of Labour (MoL) will be moved tomorrow from the current premises in Al Boutain to a new building in Mussafah Industrial Area, according to an informed source at the ministry.

Mohammad Al Zaabi, Director of the Labour Affairs Department, told Khaleej Times that the department would start working at the new building tomorrow morning.

“Hence, we ask all the labourers who have complaints to come to the new building. They can find us very easy as will locate at the same building of ‘ Daman’ health insurance company,” said Al Zaabi.

“It will be easier of the labourers who want to file complaints for their dues to reach Mussafah, “ added Al Zaabi.

The workers, PROs and owners of companies can find out address from the MoL public relations department by calling the Toll Free No 800 665.


Special number plate sold for Dh1.13 million

DUBAI — Sep. 02: A whopping Dh1.13 million was offered for a five-digit car number plate at the 51st auction of unique number plates organised by the Roads and Transport Authority yesterday. Nearly 250 bidders took part in the auction. The proceeds of the auction amounted to Dh19,557,000.

The auction hall echoed with cheers and shouts as the bidders held out their identification numbers time and again in order to compete among themselves. The atmosphere became even more electrifying with officials of the RTA, including the one conducting the auction, cheering the bidders to quote even higher amounts.

Dh1.13 million was paid for the number plate F-33333. Second in line was number F-88888 which fetched Dh1.3 million. Number F-66666 got the third place after fetching Dh 1.1 million. Plate number F-44444 went for Dh1 million.

Engineer Ali Mohammed Al Jasim, Director of Licensing Department at Traffic and Roads Agency of the RTA, said that the purpose of the auction was to cater to the needs of those who wish to own distinguished numbers.



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