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Dubai workers forced to sleep in ‘burning rooms’ without AC

Labourers go sleepless in blistering summer heat without AC at Jebel Ali camp

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 21:50 July 24, 2013
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: Jay B. Hilotin
  • What a nightmare?: Workers at a Jebel Ali camp sleep in the mess hall as the AC in their room is not working
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Dubai: It’s 1am on Tuesday and hundreds of Asian workers in a Jebel Ali camp remain wide awake due to a district cooling malfunction.

Inside the sleeping quarters, the AC remote controls show the cooling is set at 18 degrees Celsius. But in reality, the temperature on the top floor of their four-storey accommodation hovers around 33 degrees. It has been like this for three nights.

“Our camp is burning, our people are unable to sleep,” said Imtyaz Mohammad Petkar, 53, camp manager of a Jebel Ali-based firm that employs the workers.


For instance, workers in room No 87D keep pails of water next to their beds, thinking it will cool the air around them. Some spray water on themselves before lying on a thin mat on the floor, avoiding their bunk beds. Most set the ceiling fan on high speed, but that only circulates the hot air.

In a mess

Some sleep in the camp’s mess hall, where cooling is better, but they are soon roused by the catering staff, who deliver breakfast at 4am. Workers are taken by bus to an open-air metal fabrication shop, where work starts at 6am.

The company leased the camp in January. An inspection report dated June 18 shows up to 40 rooms had either insufficient cooling or the AC is only on fan mode.

Malik, the landlord’s representative, said the problem actually affected 80 rooms hooked to the far end of Emicool’s district cooling network, which faced a water shortage due to a burst water distribution pipe that had earlier caused flooding near Ibn Battuta Mall. He said technicians came to the camp on Wednesday to sort out the problem. “It will be fixed by tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.

Occupants are not convinced. “We’ve had this situation since May,” said Soujan, a quality control engineer who stays on the fourth floor of the building in Dubai Investments Park 2. “We took a digital thermometer from the office to take the readings in all the rooms. Both the AC unit and fans were working, but it was still 32 degrees C, and that too at night time. Luckily, we’re not here during daytime.”

The UAE’s strict rules on workers camps prescribe a minimum space per occupant and mandate proper cooling for sleeping quarters. The rooms are cooled by what looks like a split-type AC unit controlled by a remote device.

Dino, 27, an Indian nurse who lives in the camp, said the AC technicians blame them for opening the windows. “It’s wrong to blame us as all windows are already sealed to keep the dust and light out. We are only able to sleep from about 2am as the night gets cooler then,” said Dino. Wakeup time is 4.30am.

“Sleep has become a luxury for us,” said Alan, 36, a Filipino pipe-fitter, who claims he’s having problems focusing on his job. “The temperature in my room is unbearable, I wake up sweating.” Alan, like several workers, has been sleeping in the camp’s mess for the last four nights.

Albino Allado, the company’s health, safety and environment manager, said: “Lack of sleep is a welfare issue, but it is also a safety issue.”

He said the company was now scouting for another accommodation, but added that shifting was easier said than done.

Petkar said: “Our people here are suffering. They work hard under the hot sun during the day. We have been complaining to the landlord’s representative, and he keeps promising they will fix it. I’m very upset about the whole situation.”

No comment was immediately available from Emicool.

Comments (13)

Your comment
  1. Added 13:16 July 25, 2013

    The CEO of the District Cooling company should be made to sleep in the same room for 3 nights, so that he can understand the consequences of his mis-management. There is no point in just claiming legacy to the desert, put him in desert conditions for 3 nights and then see what he has to say....

    Khurram Asif, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 12:52 July 25, 2013

    the police should be involved immediately and the company as well as the landlord should be fined. this is inhumane.

    farida, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:51 July 25, 2013

    It would be really good if Dubai court orders the owner of the cooling company, the factory owner, manager of the accommodation to live for atleast 1 day in this accommodation. This will give them idea how it feels to work in hot sunny weather of 50 degree and sleeping without AC. Our prayers and fasting will surely be of no value for ALLAH with poor laborers suffering like this.

    Khan_The_Blunt, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:56 July 25, 2013

    Respected company please treat them as human beings they are here working for you day and night,will you treat your own family members like this.

    JOHNSON GEORGE, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 11:54 July 25, 2013

    XPRESS has done an amazing job posting this. Authorities, a reminder here, the are human too just like you and me. please do something!

    gayatri, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 11:04 July 25, 2013

    They should all be put up at a hotel and the the Companies ducking responsibility can argue about the bill in Court.

    Guy, glasgow, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 10:58 July 25, 2013

    The only way to solve this issue within hours, invite the owner of the company and the Emicool managers and lock in one room of this accomodation. Once the problems solved then release them with thanks..... Without workers how these companies can survive? These workers are the asset of the company to make the owners rich. I think the authorities will not tolerate this and they will take immediate action on the company. Lets see.....

    Ahmed Saleem, Deira, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 10:16 July 25, 2013

    Even the Buses the labor's travel is without AC in this souring temperature. And when we peep into one of the buses we can see people tired and suffering under the hot metal vehical.

    Suhail, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 10:05 July 25, 2013

    Strangely enough, these kind of things only seem to happen to the poor & hardworking people. Never have I read a report on a major power failure in the posh localities of Dubai.

    Rishi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 09:51 July 25, 2013

    For all those trying to be super nice this Ramadan. Here is a real opportunity. These people are already home sick, lonely and to top it up the only few hours they get to rest is in the heat that too during Ramadan. The best way to earn blessings is right here!

    Kamran Haider, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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