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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Photos on visas cause confusion
:All entry papers and residency permits in passports will soon bear the holder’s photograph to prevent illegal residents from using another person’s documents, said authorities.

While officials have termed the move as a necessary security measure, some residents who were unaware of the change said they fear the use of outdated photographs will get them into trouble.

According to the public relations and media section at the Abu Dhabi Naturalisation and Residence Department, the emirate started implementing the new regulation two months ago.

Now, any new or renewed residency permit will include the resident’s picture.

The new system – which is also used in the United States – was introduced for visit visas and other entry permits at the federal level three months ago.

All the other emirates, according to a Ministry of Interior official, will introduce the measures soon.

However, the new system has become a source of con cern for some due to a lack of guidelines for photo specifications from the immigration authorities.

Waleed, a 16-year-old Pakistani who lives in Al Ain, said he was shocked to see a childhood picture of his on his residency permit in his passport after a recent renewal.

He blamed both his father for submitting an old picture and the immigration authorities for accepting the application without questioning his age in the photo.

“The picture in my residency permit is when I was nine years old. Now I am old and also have a beard,” he said.

“I could have a problem when I travel. I could have problems at airport immigration counters.

“First of all, the picture in my passport itself is old, the one in the visa is even older and now I look different. I am three different people.” Waleed admitted while it was his father’s mistake, both the typing centre processing his application and the immigration authorities should have rejected it because his application clearly stated his age.

A Wahab, Waleed’s father, said he did not realise the photo was going to be includ ed in his son’s passport. “Had I known it was for the passport, I would have asked him to get a new one,” said Wahab, an agricultural engineer, who has lived in the UAE for more than 30 years.

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi immigration department said all typing centres processing immigration applications have been told to ask applicants for fresh pictures.

“As per the regulation, pictures must be in colour, normal passport size and no more than six months old.

“We have frequent meetings with service centres to apprise them of new regulations,” she added. But when contacted, several service centres denied being informed.

“We have no instructions about new photo specifications from immigration authorities,” said a staff member at Gulf Beach Typing Centre.

Another typing centre employee said they process applications without scrutinising photos.

He said: “Ideally, applicants themselves should bring new photographs because if they do not, they will be in trouble when they travel.”


DUBAI - SEP. 09:
Accident voyeurs cause havoc for traffic police trying to rescue dying motorists trapped in their cars, a top official has revealed.

Almost 50 people died in road crashes in Dubai in the first eight months of this year and Captain Ahmad Burqibah, director of Dubai Police Rescue Department, said some drivers will stop their cars to have a clear view of the victims. The police believe the problem – also known as rubber necking – is so extreme it can hinder emergency teams’ rescue efforts.

“The public park their cars to watch us,” Captain Burqibah told Emirates Today. “This is bad as it delays us from doing our job efficiently.

“Some of them even interfere in our work. They scream at the rescue officers and tell them how to do their jobs even though they are unaware of the technical ways of a rescue operation.” Now Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is studying methods to deter rubber neckers and put an end to this dangerous behaviour that places motorists at risk. Measures could include prolonged confiscation of vehicles by officials.

In one incident last month, a helicopter ambulance was unable to land to pick up a road crash victim because a crowd of people had gathered at the scene.

A Indian cyclist had been hit by a pick-up truck in Al Quoz but the rescue was hindered after the helicopter aborted two landings due to onlookers gathered around the crash site.

Captain Burqibah added: “These things might seem minor… but it causes major problems to rescue officers as it delays the process.” And, with the majority of road deaths caused by people being trapped in their cars, the officer said onlookers are a distraction. “The important thing is to get the victim out without making their condition worse. Having someone shouting that we are doing it wrong adds to the pressure.” An official at the Traffic Safety Section of the RTA said accident voyeurs can also cause unnecessary traffic delays.

“And they might lead to delays in emergency vehicles arriving at the scene of accidents,” said the official, adding that although there is currently no law against the practice, there is always a police officer at the road crash site to stop drivers slowing down.

Dr Raymond H Hamden, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist at the Human Relations Institute in Dubai, said rubber necking is part of human nature.

“It is a way of being grateful that it is not their accident. And if there are any deaths or injuries, it is a way of assuring themselves how lucky they were to be alive,” he explained.

Captain Burqibah added: “Since the beginning of the year, there have been 213 serious traffic accidents, 47 deaths and 69 serious cases.” According to an official data, last month topped the list with 13 deaths on the road and last year 80 people died in road crashes.


Inspectors hot on the hunt for tainted goods 

DUBAI - SEP. 08:
Dubai Municipality is testing several brands of toys made in China to ensure products sold in the UAE are safe.

Redha Salman, Head of Environment Protection and Safety Section, told Emirates Today more children’s toys will be analysed for traces of lead following the recent global recall of Chinese products.

The move will reassure concerned shoppers who are anxious about buying any toys made in the Asian nation.

“We will continue to test toys at the Dubai Central Laboratory (DCL) and necessary measures will be taken to ensure all products in our market are safe,” said Salman, adding that municipality inspectors conduct toy store visits to randomly select samples for testing.

He said the municipality was also co-ordinating closely with toy manufacturer Mattel Inc after it withdrew 11 more models of their Chinese made toys this week.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the DCL on Thursday said the number of toys being tested has increased. “Every day we conduct various types of tests on toy samples. The results are sent to the environment department at the Dubai Municipality. The course of action will be determined by them,” he said, adding that several samples have already failed the tests.

Yesterday shoppers at Mall of the Emirates said they were relieved to hear action was being taken.

Gabriella Richard, 38, a British mother of two, said: “I hope that the toys here are safe otherwise the municipality would not have allowed them to be sold.” Another parent said they had no option but to buy Chinese products. “What choice do we have?” said Linda Stein, 35. “There are Chinese toys everywhere and products made elsewhere are double the price. I read the contents on the packaging carefully before I buy.” Store keepers at several toy stores including Toys-R-Us and Hallmark said their sales have continued to remain steady despite concerns.

“We have removed some toys following municipality’s orders, but sales have not reduced, ” said a shop assistant at Toy Store.

“Customers who had earlier purchased Mattel made Barbie dolls can bring it back to us. We are giving them gift vouchers with which they can purchase other products.” And traders at Dragon Mart – a mega shopping facility which exclusively stocks Chinese products – said it is business as usual.

“There is no problem,” said Mehran Dastgirali, manager for toys, gifts and music instruments at Prencess Palace, which has many shops in Dragon Mart.

When Emirates Today visited the centre, many shoppers said they had not heard of the Mattel recall, in which some 18 million China-made toys were withdrawn from markets.

Samar Zainal, 19, a student from Qatar shopping for furniture, said she was not aware of the news. She said the bargain prices offered at Dragon Mart have made it a popular shopping destination for GCC tourists.

“I come to Dubai especially for this market. Back home everyone talks about it.” Najiba Al Saigh, 23, a bank employee from Bahrain, agreed. “Everything here is cheaper compared to back home,” said Saigh, who had already stocked on electronics, scarves, clothes and a pram for her baby.

And Jane Xun, from Chinaren Article Co, the company, which sells soft and battery-powered toys, added: “Customers here are not interested in quality but low prices.” Dubai Department of Ports and Customs Data for 2005 shows that 41 per cent of Dubai’s furniture, toys and sports products came from China.Toy imports alone were worth $57 million (Dh209m).


Living in the fear of fire


SHARJAH & DUBAI — SEP 08: The increasing number of fire incidents in the emirates of Sharjah and Dubai recently is reportedly causing major environmental hazards endangering people’s health and lives.

In Sharjah, a major fire destroyed oil and lubricants warehouses as well as parts of Port Khalid, sparking fears of environmental hazards that could cause affect the health of people living in the vicinity. In an equally devastating fire at a warehouse stocked with hazardous chemicals at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, sent plumes of thick black smoke into the sky and firefighters had to struggle for over three hours to control the blaze.

In more than 20 fire incidents that occurred during the last three months in both the emirates, plastics, chemicals, oil and other materials were destroyed.

Improper planning

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Abdul Aziz Al Midfa, Director-General of Sharjah Environment and Wildlife Protection Authority said that improper planning for preventing the recurrence of fire incidents in the country was a major factor that contributed to the increase in fires.

The environment concern authorities in the country seem to be helpless as there is a lack of well-equipped environment monitoring centres.

In Sharjah we have only one employee working in the environment monitoring centre because it is poorly equipped. He stressed that the fire incidents that took place in Sharjah and Dubai had affected the environment in a big way.

The Sharjah blaze reportedly caused a change in the climate as the temperature soared in the emirate as the fire raged on for two days. The clouds of dark smoke also reportedly affected soil, water and air in the emirate.

Al Midfa said that in all major fire incidents, his department’s officials and employees did nothing but watch the firefighters extinguish the flames because his department is lacking human resource, techniques as well equipments to monitor and measure the  damages to the environment.

“All the companies affected by fires were insured and compensated by insurance companies, but who will compensate the poor people who suffered damages to their respiratory system due to the smoke as a result of these fires,” he asked. “Several times many people had to be rushed to the hospital after they experienced breathing problems.”

Cooperation sought

Brigadier Ghareeb Shaban, Director-General of Sharjah Department of Civil Defence, said the department was aware of the major effects of these fires on the environment and that is why the department seeks assistance from other emirates in order to minimise the risk of hazards to property as well as environment. The firefighters make all efforts to contain the fire in the minimum possible time.

Brig. Shaban said the causes of most of the fires were yet to be identified, but felt they were probably caused by heat and improper storage of inflammable material.

In a statement, Ahmed Abdul Hussain, Director of Dubai’s Environment, Health and Safety Regulatory Authority said there was no noticeable damage to environment. “The air quality and toxicity levels are being monitored. There is no cause for alarm,” Hussain said.

Commenting on the recent fires Col. Rashid Al Matroushi, Director of the Dubai Civil Defence, said the committee which was set up to investigate the fires at Port Khaled and Jebel Ali  will not only identify the causes of the fires but also assess the  means to enhance the services of civil defence and propose steps to develop preventive and environmental standards in the strategic area.

Warehouse woes

Col. Al Matroushi said the warehouse fires do endanger the environment. “As a result, fire prevention steps and alarm systems at these premises are of great concern to civil defence, city planners and economists alike,” he said. “The improper way in which goods are stored at warehouses helps to make a bad fire worse, add to that the malfunctioning alarm and firefighting devices inside warehouses and the installation of such devices in inappropriate locations around the premises.”

Major Ibrahim Al Sayegh, head of the Prevention and Safety Section at Dubai Civil Defence, had recently stressed the need to determine the type of goods that will be stored in each warehouse before construction begins.

Sturdy concrete

All premises used for storage purposes fall under the warehouse category, except for temporary storage of goods in premises classified for other use and parts of warehouses used for packaging and processing, in which case such premises will be classified as industrial.

“Warehouses and storage facilities should be built of sturdy concrete or steel treated with fire retardant materials to slow the progress of any fire. In the construction of storage facilities, the type of goods stored must be taken into account.

“The chemical composition of the items to be stored must be analysed, based on the results the location of the warehouse should be determined. The building must have fire-retardant qualities; the type of fire fighting equipment should be compatible with the chemical composition of the goods stored; the stacking height allowed should be set; storage of chemical substances must be located away from populated areas,” Maj. Sayegh pointed out.




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