3,000 detained workers in UAE freed, set to resume work

July 16th, 2008 - 11:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 16 (IANS) United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities Wednesday ordered the release of around 3,000 expatriate workers, a vast majority of them Indians, who were detained July 4 for their involvement in a violent strike. “Following police investigations, the release of all the workers, except for eight, has been ordered today (Wednesday),” a diplomatic source told IANS.

“The workers are likely to resume work at their site in Ras Al Khaimah tomorrow,” the source said.

The eight detained include seven Indians and one Bangladeshi.

The violence occurred July 4 night when some workers of the Al Hamra Construction Company in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah got into a physical fight with the manager of the canteen over the quality of food.

According to sources, the workers were in an inebriated condition when they physically assaulted the mess manager.

When the situation got out of hand, company security personnel were called in but they proved to be inadequate as by then more workers had got involved in the incident.

The police also could not bring the situation under control as the agitating workers attacked and torched some police vehicles.

Eventually, the riot police had to be called in to bring the situation under control.

Following the incident, authorities detained a total of 3,147 workers. They were lodged at two detention centres in Abu Dhabi, and one each in Dubai, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

Of those detained, 1,000 workers hail from Tamil Nadu, 600 from Kerala, 400 from Andhra Pradesh, 300 each from Punjab and Rajasthan, 300 more from various other Indian states and the rest mainly from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Since it had become a law and order issue, the case was later transferred from the UAE labour ministry to the interior ministry.

According to the diplomatic source, Al Hamra authorities started the process of sending vehicles to the detention centres to fetch the workers back to their labour camps.

“The Al Hamra authorities have started transferring the workers to the labour accommodation Wednesday evening after the release order came,” he said.

Under UAE laws, workers found guilty of indulging in violence face deportation.

Earlier, strongly condemning the incident, India’s Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ammad said: “We totally oppose all forms of violence regardless of the grievance. Such violence harms the image of the country (from where the workers come), hurts the interest of workers and harms the interest of a vast majority of workers who are not at all involved.”

There are around 1.5 million expatriate Indians in the UAE and a large number of them work as contract labour in the booming construction industry.

Indians workers comprise 42.5 percent of the total labour force in the UAE and 65 percent of them are in the blue-collar category.

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