Detained workers in UAE being transferred back to labour camp

July 17th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 17 (IANS) Around 3,000 expatriate workers, a vast majority of them Indians, who were detained by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities for being involved in a violent strike July 4, are being transferred back to their labour camps. The authorities ordered their release late Wednesday.

“The process of transferring the detained workers back to their workplace is still on,” a diplomatic source told IANS Thursday morning.

“Around 100 vehicles have been deployed to transfer the workers back from the detention centres to the labour camps in Ras Al Khaimah and the process will take some time as they have to be transferred from five different detention centres,” the source added.

Except for eight workers, the rest of the 3,147 workers have been released.

The eight still detained include seven Indians and a Bangladeshi. Under UAE laws, workers found guilty of indulging in violence face deportation.

It is learnt that the workers are set to resume work Saturday.

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 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 set ablaze 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.

Late Wednesday evening, Al Hamra authorities had started the process of sending vehicles to the detention centres to fetch the workers back to their labour camps after the release orders were issued.

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.

Indian 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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