Dubai: Over a hundred Asian workers are holed up in a labour camp with no work, no pay and barely any means to survive.
This despite court verdicts ordering their employer to clear their dues and fund tickets home. The men say none of them has had any help from anywhere, “We have knocked on the doors of embassies and human rights organisations in Dubai but nothing has changed,” says Usman Ali, 52, from Hyderabad, India who hasn’t been paid for almost a year now.
The father of four claims his company owes him a flight ticket plus over Dh66,910 in arrears. “It’s my life savings. Tell me how do I let it go?,” asks Ali, who made Dh4,500 as a supervisor with the Dubai-based Al Ras Engineering LLC
Ali and his co-workers say the firm has now shut shop and left them at the mercy of camp owners who threaten them almost daily over unpaid rents.
“We may have won in court but remain losers in life. As long as our visas are valid, we can stay on and fight but what after that? We fear that we may be thrown out of the accommodation anytime,” says Shahinur Rahman, 34, from Dhaka, Bangladesh whose UAE residence permit is due to expire later this year.
“If we want, we can go back to our families now but that will mean completely foregoing our hard earned money. If we stay on in hopes of getting our money back, we risk losing our identities for life and perhaps leading lives as fugitives,” adds the father of one who worked as a document controller in the company for Dh2,500 per month. He says the company owes him Dh55,674 and an air ticket back home.
The script reads almost the same for Som Bahadur, Dolraj, Sukhdev, Ramesh and Netralal Pandey – a group of Nepalese electricians earning between Dh1,000 and Dh2,100. They too are stuck in the same situation for more than an year. “It’s like being marooned on an island with diminishing supplies and no help in sight,” says Bahadur, 25, the youngest of the lot who was last paid eight months ago.
“We long to go home but we can’t. Some of us have even outlived our visas. When the devastating earthquake hit our homes in Nepal, all we could do was follow the trails of destruction from here, helplessly. We didn’t have any money to send home,” adds Dolraj, 41, who hasn’t been paid his arrears totalling Dh34,835. The last time his Dh2,100 salary got credited was exactly a year ago.
“But our lives and this combined fight for our rights must go on,” he says.
An official of Al Ras Engineering, denied the allegations but admitted facing ‘temporary’ financial constraints
“We are paying the employees... Regrettably, we’ve experienced a temporary setback in our finances due to circumstances beyond our control, but will be back on track shortly.
It’s been embarrassing for us to find ourselves in this bit of a financial dilemma, but rest assured, it is very temporary,” the official said in an email response to XPRESS queries.