UAE | Housing & Property

International City: Squalor township

Invasion by bachelors, mostly labourers, sewage spills and filthy living conditions have made the area a virtual labour camp

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 February 24, 2011
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: © XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma
  • Many units in International City have become bachelor pads like this one, with Asian workers packed seven to eight in a room within each flat
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DUBAI: Residents of International City are concerned about a "hidden" urban squalor inside the township's cramped rooms and the "invasion" of bachelors that are driving families away.

Many have complained about the self-contained community being turned into a virtual labour camp — where a large number of Asian workers have migrated from the now-empty labour camps in the city's outskirts.

"On my floor, there are three units where dozens of men share a one-bedroom or studio unit," said a resident at the England cluster.

The situation is the same in the Italy, Greece, Russia, Morocco and China clusters — families living there want developers to do some sort of segregation.

All that litters is junk

"They drink soda, throw cans and litter everywhere and leave garbage bags on the lobby and staircases. They mess up the place throwing cigarette butts everywhere," said an irate father of two living in the England cluster.

On the face of it, International City, an affordable housing complex off the Dubai-Hatta Road, is a vibrant township with a thriving retail life, affordable gourmet hang-outs, pulsating service-oriented businesses as well as playgrounds. But behind closed doors, residents are grumbling about deteriorating living conditions.

Most of the complex's good qualities are still there, except for the lingering sewage problem in some areas and non-functioning street lights. But residents have bigger fish to fry — they are unhappy about the surging flood-tide of single men there.

"It used to be a great, quiet place," said Flory, an Asian owner-resident. "But now it's been messed up by the overwhelming number of bachelors. It's unfair to those of us who invested here."

She said that her newspaper had been nicked on several occasions.

"In my building, there only two families left. The rest have gone away. Everywhere you go, there are men milling around in the early evenings and on weekends."

Scores of hauling and sewage tanker trucks are parked near the Greece cluster. A father of two in the Spain cluster said: "We don't really talk to our neighbours here. We're OK as long as they don't bother us."

Early on Tuesday evening, XPRESS caught up with a few residents — all men and employed by a cleaning company — as they were getting out of a mini-van. "The instruction given to us is never open the door when someone knocks unless we know the person," said Prakash, the driver.

"Our boss saves on costs and does not want others to know there are six people inside one studio," he added.

This contrasts sharply with a YouTube video of International City taken in 2007 by a property dealer which shows a partially completed development with a few residents and squeaky-clean apartment units.

Moving house

Because of the lingering sewage spill problems near some clusters, many residents have ditched the complex and moved to other communities in Dubai.

A post by a resident said: "This place is a dump now … it is falling apart. No one is doing anything about it! We are ashamed to live here." No comment was available from Nakheel, the developer of International City.

Comments (29)

  1. Added 09:45 February 27, 2011

    Nasir you are absolutely right. The management investigates complaints on overcrowding during the day when all the bachelors are out to work. Persia has become a mess for families. The circle of buildings N12 and M-05 are full of labourers. In the morning at 6:30AM you have housemaids from building M05 who keep laughing loudly and chatting in big groups with their male friends at the entrance and no one does anything. The authorities do not even come around this circle of buildings. There is no parking. People park cars even between the building gaps! Some companies are running factories that are drilling and grinding all day in building N12 on the ground floor. This work goes on till 12 AM in the morning and starts at 6AM (Fridays and holidays included). Even the garbage dumpster is moved out of its place by these companies to make space for all their 30-40 delivery vans. In building N12 there are labourers - about 8-10 in a room. In the same building there is also a babysitting business. Can you trust to leave your babies here in such conditions and environment? Now DEWA wants to levy a housing tax of 5% for International City! this is the last provocation that we require. No one is against the labourers living in the city, but they must be able to follow community rules and behave and not make a nuisance for others. Right now it is quite the contrary. My family and myself are literally going mad with the noise, pollution, lack of sanitation and lack of security. My daughter refuses to go out of the house unaccompanied as she is stared at, or whistled at by these labourers. I invested in this property as I was given dreams of a planned residency, but all that is left is the sewage. It should be renamed Crime City or Slum City.

    Ahmad, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 09:44 February 27, 2011

    You talk of bachelors, but please note they are not bachelors - they have left behind their families in their home countries and they are here to build the city. Many of the labourers working here dont have knowledge of urban living, so better teach them. Rather than complaining, tell them what to do and what not to do - every one has to take action of telling them ( not teaching them ). Yes the area where we live is ours and we have to look after that as we look after our house in our home countries... thanks

    Pradhan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:10 February 25, 2011

    One is impressed with Dubai with its modern infrastructure and with the introduction of the Metro is complete as far as urban city life is concerned, but it lacks housing for a vast majority of the poor and the working class. Whilst their behaviour of littering needs to be condemned, it is an opportunity for Dubai to have the equivalent of council flats in London. There should be more inspectors on the ground educating the vast majority as to how best to live their lives. The number of occupants should however be restricted to avoid overcrowding.

    Joe, London, United Kingdom

  4. Added 21:26 February 24, 2011

    I absolutely agree with this article, The situation has turned worse over the last year. A number of bus/tax/van drivers and labourers are living in International City. I still love the concept of this residential area, but for above reasons, I am under pressure to move to another area. I see labourers staring at families, sitting below buildings, people leaving garbage near the elevators. trucks parked all over the place.. I have complained to Nakheel many times but never got any proper feedback.. They say that their inspectors are visiting such apartments, but they did not find any one there. I have told them many times that these people work during the day and there is no point in checking during the daytime. As my contract is going to finish in two months, I am going to leave this area for good.

    Nasir, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 20:09 February 24, 2011

    Its indeed a sorry state of affairs in International City, but my point is where is the affordable housing for bachelors and people below a certain income level? Most people whom we term as bachelors are actually people working to make ends meet and are living in squalor because they cant afford to live in Dubai Marina like you and me. Instead of cracking down on these people and blaming cleaning companies XPRESS and Gulf News should highlight the fact that affordable housing is not avalable in the UAE and hence something needs to be done about that. These poor people cannot live far away since most of them dont have money for buses, let alone cars and hence have to be housed where they are readily accessible to the companies. The sheer apathy of the media and the people who live in Dubai scares me . I know the next move will be a crackdown on people in International City. Some of the poor souls will spend time outside their homes, companies will be fined etc etc. But no real solution to the lack of affordable housing will emerge. Are we looking at creating ghettos?

    Bob, Toronto, Canada

  6. Added 17:46 February 24, 2011

    Not only International City, but even Al Khail Gate in Al Qouz is full of labourers and bachelors. When we moved in, we were told that the building was only for famillies, but now it is swarming with men and we are unable to go out even in the corridors.

    Reader, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 16:58 February 24, 2011

    What comment do you expect from Nakheel?? People want to live, its cheap. You dont like it, simply move out. Or are you sugessting to kick all the labourers out? Seriously why does Gulf News even bother with an article about this?

    Logical, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 15:05 February 24, 2011

    This exactly reflects my view. International City has become another Sonapur. Since each unit belongs to individual owners and they dont want to keep the flat empty untill they find good tenants companies find flats here cheaper than Sonapur labour camp. The authorities should have some restrictions such as limiting the number of people who can stay in one flat. I remember in the initial days someone from Nakeel used to visit all the apartments and take note of how many people are staying in one flat etc. But now no one cares. If this continues, families will move out and more and more batchelors would move in, making international city Bachelors City.

    Tony, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 13:30 February 24, 2011

    So true, it has become very difficult to live in international city, I may add that the bachelors litter the area and smoke in the elevators. All complaints fall on deaf ears! Hope the situation changes or probably we just have to move out!

    Dina, Dubai, India

  10. Added 12:43 February 24, 2011

    I am staying in International City in Persia Cluster since the last four years, I kept sending pictures of parking problems due to parking of commercial vehilces which, as per rules, are not allowed to park in International City. I also complained to security about other issues, but nothing has been done. I request your team to visit Persia cluster during the evening.

    Bharat Khanwani, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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